CARDIFF, Wales — There is something about Cardiff and Anthony Joshua that leaves you coming away feeling like something was missing. In both of his two fights here, it was due to matters out of Joshua’s hands. On Saturday night, it was referee Giuseppe Quartarone’s overly invasive, pernickety officiating, preventing any flow. Previously, last October, Joshua’s onslaught was brought to a premature end in the 10th round against Carlos Takam when there was far more left in the tank. But Joshua is box office, the crowd adores him more by the fight and his stock ever grows.
The history books read Joshua at 21 professional fights, 20 knockouts and one win on points. It is to Joseph Parker’s immense credit that he pushed Joshua the full 12 rounds, and also that he is yet to be dropped in a professional bout. He loses his undefeated record, while Joshua’s unblemished career continues with another belt in his grasp.
“What you cannot forget is I am the unified heavyweight champion of the world,” Joshua said, as he pointed to the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight titles, four sets of letters that run alongside his name. He talked of his undefeated record, his belts, and then delivered this message to the owner of the last remaining title, WBC champion Deontay Wilder: “Wilder! Let’s go baby, let’s go”. All the while the hugely impressive and affable Parker watched on, before talking of how he hopes to improve — attention switching to the future, with the dust barely settled on the still sweaty past.
Anthony Joshua, undefeated in 21 fights, was taken to the points for the first time in his professional career by New Zealand’s Joseph Parker. AP Photo/Frank Augstein
There had been plenty of talk leading up to the fight. To get the fight inked in, according to Parker’s characterful promoter David Higgins, they baited Joshua’s camp. Joshua got frustrated, talked of a lack of respect, and the details were sorted, purse split. Then came the week leading up to the fight, the pantomime died down and the themes ran around fear and weight. Fear was in short supply Saturday evening, while both fighters were standing lighter than in recent memory.
Then came Friday’s weigh-in, full of pomp and circumstance, complete with hakas and marching bands. There was anticipation on the well-oiled streets of Cardiff, but also uncertainty. Speaking to supporters before the Takam fight, not one tipped Joshua’s late stand-in opponent for an upset. But this time around there was a groundswell behind Parker. Although those backing Joshua outnumbered Parker’s support, he received a healthy portion of cheers from the crowd. However, no one spoke of this going down to points; everyone expected a stoppage.