New Zealand has its first heavyweight-boxing champ as the result of Joseph Parker earned a narrow WBO victory over Andy Ruiz Jr. in Auckland.
The win was by split decision, with two judges giving Parker at 115 – 113 edge and the third calling it a 114 – 114 draw.
The 24-year-old Parker initially appeared sluggish, but as the fight wore on, the Kiwi’s superior conditioning and form took hold over the course of the final rounds as Ruiz tired and became moribund at the end.
Going forward, Parker might be looking overseas for a bout with Tyson Fury to unify the titles, assuming of course, that Fury is successful in recovering from substance abuse.
Neither Parker nor Ruiz could land a decisive blow, although during the ebb and flow of the fight, both scored effectively at times. Parker began to gain the upper hand in the fifth round, landing a solid left to Ruiz’s face that left the Mexican-American dazed and setting Parker up for dominating sixth round.
Ruiz staged a comeback in the seventh round, but his punches no longer commanded the authority to truly damage Parker.
The eleventh and twelfth rounds proved inconclusive and the two fighters returned to their respective corners at the bell knowing that the decision was going to be in the hands of the judges.