Combat Sports

Parker still a world away from jubilant Joshua

Joseph Parker needs his own Klitschko.

That’s the main takeaway for Team Parker from Anthony Joshua’s brave, thrilling and utterly absorbing victory over Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium. In climbing off the canvas and enduring a withering storm from one of the all-time greats to emerge victorious with a thunderous 11th-round stoppage, Joshua answered a host of questions about his true pedigree.

For Parker, many of those questions remain.

Unlike Joshua, now the IBF and WBA champion, Parker has at least sailed into a deep water a few times, having gone the full 12-round championship distance twice. Incredibly, Sunday morning’s mega fight was just the third Joshua has ventured past the third round.

For the longest time, it seemed a pretender would be unmasked. Klitschko, well past his prime at 41 but still boasting a decent physique and the technique of an artist, was briefly ruffled by Joshua’s powerful flurries in the opening two rounds. But, behind his rapier jab, the Ukrainian swiftly asserted his dominance. A flash knockdown by Joshua in the fifth was a reminder of the Englishman’s power, however Klitschko rallied to close the round the stronger before dropping Joshua with a stunning right hand of his own in the sixth.

Joshua looked gone. So dominant had he been as a former Olympic champion who had glided to a pro record of 18-0, only the slightest hint of a form guide existed to help predict what might happen next. 

Joshua had been hurt once as a pro, by Dillian Whyte, and rebounded strongly. But he’d also been knocked out as an amateur. Was he, in fact, a chinny body builder masquerading as a heavyweight champion? Or did he truly possess the heart of a champion to go with his obvious physical gifts?

Joshua answered those questions in emphatic style. Almost anyone would have wilted under Klitschko’s barrage from the sixth to the 10th rounds. Joshua clung on, demonstrating true grit. And then, as champions do, he turned the fight on its head with one massive uppercut at the start of 11th round.

Klitschko bravely pressed on, but his number was up, with Joshua expertly, calmly even, finishing the contest. In the process, he answered every question about his heart, desire and stamina. Questions about his chin and technique remain, but Joshua is clearly now ‘The Man’ in the heavyweight division; the man WBO champion Parker and WBC champion Deontay Wilder are chasing.

For all his talent, Parker isn’t ready for Joshua yet. For his personal development - and to generate a sufficient level of interest in the fight in the UK - Parker needs his own Klitschko contest. He needs to fight a heavyweight of genuine international standing, and he needs to win well. Ideally, that opponent would be Englishmen David Haye or Tyson Fury, or maybe even Tony Bellew. Hughie Fury, the undefeated but untested Britton who just cried off sick from fighting Parker, doesn’t possess the requisite stature, even if the WBO sees fit to retain him as its mandatory challenger.

The younger Fury would only be a stepping stone to the stepping stone that leads to Joshua. That tells us all we need to know about where Parker is right now. We certainly won’t learn any more when he takes on Razvan Cojanu on Saturday night at a Manukau Events Centre that is more than a world away from Wembley Stadium.

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