AUCKLAND -- Kiwi boxer Joseph Parker has successfully defended his WBO world heavyweight title for the first time, defeating Romanian Razvan Cojanu by unanimous verdict Saturday in possibly his last fight on home soil.
Despite holding the upper hand for almost the entire fight, the 25-year-old struggled to land the killer blow on Cojanu, who rarely troubled with his 202cm frame and spent much of the fight niggling Parker and engaging in gamesmanship and taunting.
Parker's body blows were particularly effective, finding little resistance from the languid Romanian, but he never looked likely to knock out his opponent.
Only towards the end of the bout did Cojanu show any gumption, edging out the final two rounds with thumping hook shots and increased endeavour. But by then the damage was done, and Parker won easily on points - with one judge deeming the fight 119-108 in Parker's favour and the other two scoring it 117-110.
Parker's professional record now sits at 23-0, with 18 knockouts - and sets him up for lucrative fights in the UK or US.
"You can all see why we bring Razvan in to camp, we look for the best," Parker said, referring to his previous sparring sessions with Cojanu.
The Aucklander had the edge on his burly opponent early, landing several body blows and forcing him into the corner within the first round.
The second ensued in a similar fashion, as Parker repeatedly troubled Cojanu with combinations to the body and left-handed jabs, foreshadowing the rounds to follow.
By the third, the 124.6kg Cojanu was already visibly tiring, and was taking blow after blow in the fourth round despite his frequent attempts to put Parker off.
He was also docked a point for holding Parker repeatedly.
Yet Cojanu kept upright under a hurricane of rapid blows and always appeared steady on his feet - even grinning fiendishly with each Parker punch.
Parker grew frustrated but pounded on, and ultimately came out on top - although not with the statement knockout victory he would've liked.
Meanwhile, in the undercard fights, Kiwi catchweight Jordan Tuigamala blitzed Nigel Elliott in three rounds, before Parker's younger brother John dominated and eventually won his bout by unanimous decision against Cantabrian cruiserweight Ratu Dawai.
Late call-up Jerome Pascua triumphed by split decision over Joshua Hatherley, while Russian light-heavyweight prodigy Umar Salamov downed Croatian Emil Markic with a flurry of furious blows at the end of the fourth round.
Tim Tszyu, son of former Australian super-lightweight world champion Kostya, crushed Kiwi-Samoan Ivana Siau within two rounds with a perfect right-handed blow.
Australian lightweight George Kambosos, in the fight before Parker, then defeated resilient compatriot Qamil Balla by unanimous verdict.