Renaissance Man Parker Recovers From Knockdowns To Beat Zhang

Heavyweight renaissance man Joseph Parker continued his superb run of form with a majority decision victory over Zhilei Zhang to land the WBO interim heavyweight title.

The New Zealander had to twice climb off the floor, but ultimately found a groove while Zhang tired down the stretch.

“This is a great win, I just feel like we’re on the up,” said a jubilant Parker. “Zhang is a tough man, he knocked me down twice and I had to keep my composure and keep up with the plan.”

One card couldn’t separate them at 113-113 each, but two judges preferred Parker’s work and gave him the win 114-112 and 115-111. Parker is now 35-3 (23 KOs); Zhang fell to 26-2-1 (21 KOs).

Neither committed much in the opening session. Parker clearly looked more dynamic while the giant Zhang prodded away with a jab and then opted to stand between rounds.

The second was similar but with a minute left in the third Parker was jolted by a short left hand and put on to the seat of his trunks.

China’s Zhang, who fights out of Bloomfield, New Jersey, was economical but effective and another short left had blood seeping from Parker’s nose.

Parker was fighting in the pocket, but either not throwing enough or not letting his hands go – although he enjoyed some success to the body near the end of the fourth round and did better as the round went on.

The same could be said for the fifth, with Parker looking increasingly more comfortable, finding a home for occasional counters.

Parker had a steady sixth, Zhang edged the next and then, in the eighth, Parker was down once more having been caught dipping low by a short right hook that landed high on his head.

The New Zealander detonated a couple of right hands in the ninth, but he couldn’t put a dent in Zhang, who merely shrugged off anything that did actually get through his guard.

It was intriguing if unspectacular. Parker was perhaps guilty of standing in front of Zhang – of trying to out-think him rather than making him work – and the New Zealander might have been better served doing more work downstairs, but Parker was busier in the ninth and 10th and his trainer Andy Lee said before the 11th: “You look great out there, you’re boxing a very smart fight.”

Zhang was slowing and marking up by his right eye, while Parker was establishing a rhythm, mostly working behind the jab and one-twos.

Zhang hardly threw a punch in the last minute of the 11th and, as he battled exhaustion, he scarcely let anything more than a timid jab go in the last, when Parker, boxing with a decisive swagger, banked another round – and the fight.

Lee told BoxingScene last week that if Parker won, they had to rematch Zhang before October, and after the fight, Parker said that the rematch would be next.