Joseph Parker eases to TKO win against Alex Leapai

Dylan Cleaver, NZ Herald,
Other Sport,
Publish Date
Sunday, 30 June 2019, 1:32PM
Parker on his way into the ring. (Photo / Photosport)
Parker on his way into the ring. (Photo / Photosport)

Joseph Parker's championship revival continued today with a convincing yet curious victory over Alex Leapai.

Referee Ricky Gonzalez stopped the fight in the 10th round much to Leapai's bemusement and even the Parker camp looked nonplussed by the decision.

Did Parker do enough to convince the world of his championship calibre credentials? The jury is out on that.

Sporting a goatee beard and the trimmest physique of his professional career, Parker, 27, looked a class above his fellow Samoan, even if Leapai's haymakers posed an intermittent threat.

It improves the South Auckland heavyweight's record to 26-2, with 20 knock outs. He remains undefeated against anybody outside the UK.

If Parker was looking to make a statement in his Matchroom debut, in a fight that was co-main event to Demetrius Andrade's defence of his WBO middleweight belt against Maciej Sulecki, it was mission kind of accomplished.

Sure, the early knockout that looked inevitable never materialised but owed more to the cement-like quality of Leapai's head than a lack of shots from Parker.

It didn't look as if the fight would go beyond the first as Parker poured it on. Leapai weathered that but it was obvious his hopes rested somewhere between slim and no.

Leapai took a breather in the second and third rounds for apparent low blows – Gonzalez never appeared overly concerned – but he couldn't stop the barrage of upper cuts and right hands he was wearing.

Parker's energy flattened out slightly by the sixth round although he never looked anything other than in complete control.

It was his first fight in the US since his TKO of Keith Thompson in 2014, 19 prizefights ago. In front of a large and boisterous Rhode Island crowd unafraid of voicing "you suck" hot takes on the fighters, Parker kept them interested if not 100 per cent invested in his performance.

Parker went into the fight at 109kg, with Las Vegas-based trainer Kevin Barry saying it was the most finely tuned he had seen his charge. He had looked sharp in training all week and, to the surprise of nobody who has had anything to do with Parker, relaxed on the day of the fight.

Leapai came into the fight at short notice, having replaced American Eric Molina who proved too hard to tie down to a workable contract. Leapai had been in camp with trainer Noel Thornberry, but not working at the intensity needed to face a fighter of Parker's class.

The fight is on the books, but in all reality there was little to gain for Parker aside from another notch on his belt.

It is expected Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn will arrange a fight against Brit Dereck Chisora, possibly as early as September, which will be a significant step up in quality and expectation.

If that goes to plan, Parker could be fighting somebody as accomplished as Alexander Povetkin by year's end.

That will be mark the end of his current deal with Matchroom, but the expectation from both parties is that will be extended as there is a lot of optimism around the camp despite the 2018 setbacks.

Parker is still ranked in the top 10 on influential website's ratings. Importantly, he is at least two years younger than anybody ranked ahead of him.

Most intriguingly, he remains the only fighter to have beaten current champion Andy Ruiz, having prevailed in a close decision in Auckland in 2016.

Indisputably, Parker's career hit a sizable speed bump in 2018. This was a victory that was expected and was duly delivered, nevertheless, it points to a boxer veering back into the fast lane.