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31st Mar 2018

Anthony Joshua taken the distance for the first time in his career

It wasn't a classic but the job got done

Darragh Murphy

Anthony, meet the judges. Judges, meet Anthony.

For the first time in Anthony Joshua’s career, he has relied on the judges’ scorecards but he remains undefeated after standing up to the stern test of lively opponent Joseph Parker at the Principality Stadium.

‘AJ’ added Parker’s WBO crown to his already impressive collection after claiming a unanimous decision to move to 21-0.

Much of Parker’s trash talk in the build-up to Saturday night’s unification showdown in Cardiff saw the previously undefeated Kiwi criticise Joshua for possessing a suspect chin.

This weekend, Parker had the opportunity to test Joshua’s chin but it passed with flying colours in a fight that was most certainly a slow burner.

Joshua’s knockout streak came to an abrupt end as he proved his staying power over twelve rounds.

Joshua’s slimmer physique, having weighed in at a lean 17st 4lbs on Friday, translated directly to a speed advantage with the jab and he was repeatedly in and out before his opponent could get in range in the early rounds although Parker did begin applying pressure from the midway point of the contest.

The first round was very much a feeling-out process which set the mood for the rest of the bout, but it was a round that Joshua edged after taking the centre of the ring and placing Parker on the back foot throughout the opening frame.

In the second, Parker showed the first signs of damage as blood began trickling from his nose as ‘AJ’ availed of his reach advantage.

A coming-together of heads seemed to momentarily bother Joshua in the third round, just as it did when the Watford fighter met Carlos Takam in the same venue last October, but Joshua maintained his focus and stayed in control whenever pressure was applied.

Frustration boiled over in the sixth round as Parker chased a disciplined ‘AJ’, only for the referee to call for a timeout and tell both men to calm down as the fans roared for action.

The timekeeper was told to call a brief halt to proceedings again in the seventh after Joshua launched a huge uppercut after a break had been ordered.

In fact, the referee was far too quick to step in each time that the fighters came together which undoubtedly affected the flow of the fight.

A stoppage never looked on, neither fighter ever looked like getting dropped and, in truth, flush shots were few and far between.

Parker’s boat-rocking seldom did any more than brush Joshua’s bow as the steady ship eventually reached its destination as the judges registered a unanimous decision.

WBC title-holder Deontay Wilder, who has found himself in some hot water this week, could find himself next up for Joshua and that fight, which would decide the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, could well take place before 2018 is out although both Wilder and ‘AJ’ have mandatory challengers in front of them.

As Saturday showed, though, the big money is in unification bouts and the fight game will always find a way when a mammoth payday is on the cards.