Anthony Joshua completed a composed points win over Joseph Parker as he was taken the distance for the first time in the unification clash in Cardiff.
The British heavyweight star added the WBO belt to his IBF and WBA ‘super’ title as he produced a disciplined display against the rugged Parker to earn a wide unanimous decision with two scores of 118-110 and 119-109 at the Principality Stadium.
Joshua’s perfect run of 20 knockouts was ended by Parker, who lived up to his reputation for toughness, but AJ moved one belt away from becoming the undisputed champion.
Joseph Parker was escorted by Samoan chiefs as he arrived for the biggest battle of a 24-fight career, followed by the home favourite Joshua, whose white robe was lit up by pyrotechnics while he strolled confidently towards his 21st opponent.
The hand speed of Parker was on show in the opening round as he pushed out probing jabs at Joshua, who edged forward menacingly on the front foot.
Anthony Joshua began to measure Parker with his ramrod jab in the second, while the Kiwi was muscled to the ropes by a crunching combination in the third.
Forced onto his heels, Parker was kept at arm’s length by that thudding jab in the fourth, but he ripped a right hand through Joshua’s guard in the fifth and smiled after the bell.
Parker charged out for the sixth, chasing Joshua to the ropes, and both traded big punches as a tense duel turned into a brutal encounter.
Crunching body shots from Parker slowed Joshua’s stride in the seventh, although Joshua sparked to life in the eighth to land a searing left hand.
Parker’s raiding attacks continued to unsettle AJ, who was forced to hold in the ninth, but Joshua’s spiteful work opened a cut over his foe’s eye in the 10th.
Both men traded hooks in the 11th as Parker’s renowned chin held firm and Joshua resisted the urge to pursue a last-round knockout, controlling the last three minutes with his spearing jab to seal the victory.