Dillian Whyte roughs up Joseph Parker and blazes into heavyweight reckoning


For half an hour, Dillian Whyte and Joseph Parker engaged in a high-grade dance in front of 20,000 fans without delivering the candidate for fight of the year many had expected. In the closing moments, however, the Londoner had to get off the canvas to hang on for a 113-112, 115-110, 114-111 victory that keeps him in the picture for a rematch with the world champion, Anthony Joshua.

But Parker – who took Joshua the distance last October – made the Londoner work for it. The judges got it about right, and Whyte learnt more in these 12 rounds than he has in several previous fights, including his knockout loss to Joshua.

Parker’s previous 10 opponents had a combined win-loss-draw record of 261-27-6. Whyte’s opponents over the same stretch had won 318 bouts, lost 72 and drawn three. Their only setbacks had been against Joshua. But both still went chasing a fight with the one heavyweight to stand in the way of Joshua holding all the belts, the WBC champion, Deontay Wilder.

So, there could be no questioning the pedigree of either man, or their willingness to gamble on their gifts.

Parker, a stone and a bit lighter, looked it, pale and dry. Uncharacteristically, he had predicted a knockout. Behind a quicksilver jab, he unloaded enough early haymakers to make Whyte wonder about his own prediction of a stoppage. First signs were that it could be a tasty affair.

The boxing lesson was going to plan in the second until Parker, off balance, ran on to a head-butt that the referee, Ian John-Lewis, called a knockdown.

Legitimate or not, it was enough to encourage Whyte – and alert Parker to the obvious dangers at hand. Parker’s variety to head and body impressed, but so did Whyte’s aggression and power. It was almost the perfect match.

Whyte’s confidence, never lacking, grew, and his strength was beginning to tell in close exchanges. The referee missed his blatant holding and hitting to the back of the head, but the Londoner had an edge after four rounds.

The pressure was now one-way, Parker breathing heavily and holding his tormentor at bay with infrequent flurries of jabs and roundhouse rights.

The “Body Snatcher”, as Whyte labels himself, worked Parker over inside at the halfway mark, but the New Zealander was not easily discouraged. Finally, John-Lewis cautioned Whyte for blows to the back of the head, and Parker got back on the scorecard.

There was no lull. Parker stayed out of enough trouble and threw enough punches to win the seventh, but still trailed.

Whyte, jabbing, went looking for an opening as Parker slowed in the eighth, but settled for shading the points. Both, it seemed, were saving a little for a late charge.

The non-aggression pact did not last long. Parker, losing concentration, misjudged an uppercut and..

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