In a wide-open heavyweight division, Joseph Parker positioned himself at the front of the pack on Saturday with a tense, hard-fought majority decision win over Andy Ruiz, Jr. Saturday in Auckland, New Zealand.
The unflappable Parker, the hometown favorite, used his jab to pick off rounds against the Mexican-American challenger, who never managed to turn the fight into the brawl he wanted it to be.
The 1st round set the pattern, with Ruiz stalking and attempting to throw hard shots while Parker backed up, shooting a discouraging jab from his waist. Ruiz’s own stick, mostly aimed at the Kiwi’s midsection, was never quite as effective and the “Destroyer” retreated to his corner with a small mouse under his left eye after the opener.
Despite Ruiz’s best efforts, the hometown favorite was never forced to change his game plan. In round two Parker added vicious left rips to the equation, undermining Ruiz’s attempt to claim the stanza’s major exchange.
Parker just stuck at it after that, banking rounds more often than not. Ruiz became more assertive after round six, making it competitive with clubbing hooks. But crucially, most of his work was along the ropes and he rarely managed to get Parker in a corner.
Still, in round 8 he surged forward, having the best of it when they went toe to toe and landing a punctuating left to the body before the bell.
From there they traded rounds, with Parker’s one-twos and hooks off the jab vying for attention against Ruiz’s combinations and aggression.
And with the fight one the line in the final rounds (at least on some scorecards), Parker seized the day with the best of what he’d done earlier — accurate jabbing and punishing body work.
Despite the fears of home cooking expressed on Twitter, the scores, of 114-114 and 115-113 twice for Parker, accurately reflected the fast-paced and competitive bout. Both boxers leave the fight elevated, but it’s Parker who’s now staring down a multi-million dollar payday with the U.K.’s Anthony Joshua.
On the undercard, Aussie welterweight prospect Jeff Horn overcame early resistance (in the form of a knockdown) to KO Ali Funeka in the 6th round of a fun fight. Horn may not quite be ready for the likes of Errol Spence, but he’s certainly managed to prove he’s not boring.
(Andy Ruiz, left, next to Joseph Parker, right; photo via PHOTOSPORT)