Joshua outpoints Parker to close in on undisputed heavyweight crown

Victory over Joseph Parker means Anthony Joshua now holds three major heavyweight title belts, with Deontay Wilder holding the WBC strap.

Joshua outpoints Parker to close in on undisputed heavyweight crown

Anthony Joshua added Joseph Parker's WBO heavyweight crown to his WBA and IBF titles after being forced to go the 12-round distance for the first time by the previously unbeaten New Zealander in a Cardiff encounter than never truly caught fire.

Parker pledged to outwork, outbox and outlast Joshua, no doubt garnering encouragement from his opponent's workmanlike showing against Carlos Takam last time out, but it was the 28-year-old Briton who decisively banked rounds down the closing stretch to win by margins of 118-110 (twice) and 119-109, with his opponent never able to crack the puzzle presented to him by a spearing left jab.

Boxing - Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker - World Heavyweight Title Unification Fight - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Britain - March 31, 2018 Anthony Joshua celebrates with the belts and promoter Eddie Hearn after winning the fight

Joshua's quest to become the first undisputed world heavyweight champion since his compatriot Lennox Lewis at the end of the last century remains on track and a showdown with motormouth WBC ruler Deontay Wilder – conspicuous by his absence from ringside on Saturday – would be likely to carry far greater excitement. 

It was a match-up the champion enthusiastically shouted for after the bout, with Parker conceding he came off second best against a foe he expected to leave a lot more out of breath.

The 26-year-old slips to a professional record of 24 wins and a solitary loss, while Joshua has 21 victories from as many contests.

Both fighters appeared implausibly relaxed during prolonged introductions and the opening jab exchanges revealed no great speed differential between a pair of razor sharp big men.

Although that did not ignite into the blockbuster an expectant stadium crowd anticipated, Joshua unfurled a key weapon in the first as he landed thudding rights to Parker's midsection - money in the bank for later on.

The younger man appeared to be struggling with the weight of Joshua's assaults by round four, but little was getting through flush and Parker enjoyed his best spell during the middle rounds.

Anthony Joshua (R) of Great Britain exchanges blows with Joseph Parker (L) of New Zealand in the 12th and final round of their heavyweight unification title bout at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, March 31, 2018. Anthony Joshua was taken the distance for the first time in his professional career before winning a unanimous points decision in his world heavyweight title unification fight with Joseph Parker.

Joshua was seemingly troubled by damage around his left eye before the visitor steadied his man with an uppercut and had the last word in a couple of sixth-round exchanges.

Prospects of the bout moving through the gears were tempered by the irritatingly over-zealous referee Giuseppe Quartarone, while Parker could not match up to all his pre-fight promises.

A granite chin stood up to a clattering Joshua left in eight, he sagged under a right undercut in the next session and a spearing jab cut him in 10.

No doubts then over Parker's punch endurance but Joshua, who weighed in at a trim 17st 4lbs, was the man lighter on his feet and certainly not overmatched in terms of stamina.

The home favourite dished out the more substantial punishment in the final round – a chopping right to the temple and left down the pipe either side of another excellent body shot – as Parker ambled gamely towards defeat.