In a bout that was more maul than brawl, a lacklustre Joseph Parker outpointed fellow Kiwi Junior Fa in a heavyweight grudge match that was spoiled by endless clinching at the Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday.
Scores were 119-109, 117-111 and 115-113, with the latter card being the closest to reality in an even but eyesore of an encounter.
Fa used his footwork and reach to sound effect in the opening exchanges with Parker seeking to unload his overhand right hand. But a left hook wobbled Parker before the end of the opening session to illustrate underdog Fa was a live opponent.
His confidence continued in the second as he dropped downstairs and Parker remained in steady pursuit. Gradually sucking the space from the ring, Parker was jabbing adroitly to head and body in the third. He backed Fa into a corner and riddled him with right hands as the momentum appeared to be shifting.
Fa’s footwork had slowed demonstrably as he was being drawn into the physical contest that suited Parker by the fourth. He edged back into the fight and caught Parker cold with a snap right hand early in a bright sixth to prove he still carried some threat despite appearing to concede most of the rounds after the opener.
The unbeaten Fa’s legs had found a second wind as he frustrated Parker by the seventh. The blows of Parker lacked sharpness and Fa was in the ascendancy via a smart right hand. Parker found some necessary spite in the eighth after trainer Kevin Barry read the riot act in between rounds.
But it was an untidy spectacle. Parker swung for the fences in the ninth to bring a roar from the capacity crowd (due to enter a local Covid-19 lockdown the following day). An elbow opened a troublesome cut over Fa’s left eye in the ninth in a rough watch for the fans viewing worldwide on DAZN.
The bleeding Fa unleashed a flashy cameo of punches in the 10th as Parker resorted to hopeful potshots. A resilient Fa landed a flush right hand later in the session as the fight appeared headed to a close call on the cards.
With the outcome far from certain, Parker needed a strong finish in the final two rounds. He brought the required aggression but that was often negated by Fa’s crafty spoiling and street smarts. But Fa clinched far too much and this was to cost him. On the final bell, Fa thrust his arms aloft in jubilation, Parker wore a mask of frustration.
Two judges saw Parker a wide winner, but his threat level at heavyweight appears to be rapidly diminishing.