I was concerned, going into tonight’s unification bout between Anthony Joshua and Joseph “Warby” Parker* in Cardiff, Wales**, that it would turn out like Canelo Alvarez’s thrashing of Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. nearly a year ago—a one-sided roust meant only to whet our appetites for the Big Fight that we really want to see, Joshua versus Deontay Wilder. But it wasn’t that. It wasn’t, really, anything; and while that doesn’t sound like much of a compliment to Parker, it very much is.
*”Warby” isn’t really Joseph Parker’s nickname; I just think it would be funny if it were—and a great sponsorship opportunity!
**Because of the time difference, the fight aired at 4pm this afternoon in Chicago, which meant that for the first time in my life, I was scoring a fight and doing laundry at the same time. I wonder how often that happened to Bert Sugar.
Unlike Wilder’s needlessly cruel one-minute rematch with Bermane Stiverne last November, Joshua (21-0, 20 KO) played it patient, and took the early rounds here by blocking off much of the ring from Parker (24-0, 18 KO), who put himself on the defensive and only rarely moved from the position, most notably in Rounds Five and Six, where a body shot combination briefly hurt Joshua and could have led to a significant run by Parker, had not referee Giuseppe Quartarone inserted himself into the action to break them up. Indeed, Quartarone seemed positively allergic to any semblance of excitement in his ring tonight.
The fight continued as such, with respect and tactical acumen from both corners, but little to offer of fireworks. If you were underwhelmed, I can’t really blame you. It had none of the spectacle or symbolic heft of Joshua’s fight with Wladimir Klitschko, but in a way, that’s what was so remarkable about it. Parker arrived to the fight with a defensive strategy in place to neutralize Joshua: Sharp single- and double-jabs to keep Joshua at bay and effectively close the six-inch reach gap between them; consistently dodging AJ’s potentially devastating head shots; an almost supernatural ability to anticipate and block Joshua’s right uppercut; and a herky-jerky stance that sure as hell made me uncomfortable. And it worked!
Unfortunately for him, Parker’s offensive strategy, whatever it might have been, never materialized, while Joshua gained momentum in the last rounds. The scores went to Joshua, of course; 118-110 from two judges and 120-108 from the third, while Malarkey Blog had it 118-110. But Parker took Joshua to the distance for the first time in his career, and remained upright the entire time; that’s as close to a loss as Anthony Joshua has ever had. I hope Deontay Wilder was taking notes.