It was called a risky fight but Joseph Parker blew away his opponent Alexander Dimitrenko in a victory which was tinged with controversy in Manukau tonight.
There was no issue with who the better fighter was, but Parker's blow which stopped the fight in the third round came as his giant Ukraine opponent was on one knee. It came at the end of a barrage, the right hand thudding into the body of Dimitrenko, and while it resulted in a victory it could have as easily resulted in a disqualification.
The result was given to Parker by way of TKO, a fair result given the gulf in class, but his opponent, left writhing on the canvas, was magnanimous in defeat.
"He hit me but OK, this is the boxing business, the heavyweight division," Dimitrenko said. "I was down on one knee but this is heavyweight boxing. What can I say, I wanted to fight, I had good preparation for this fight. I felt good. I'm sorry the fight ended the way that it did."
The finish came at the end of a barrage and Parker said he didn't see that Dimitrenko was on a knee. "He grabbed me and he went down. I didn't see his knee. [Combating the] holding, that's what we practised.
"We've had a great training camp. I got the spark back that we haven't seen in my last fight. I stayed down and put more power in my shots and worked off the angles."
Trainer Kevin Barry said: "I thought his performance was very, very good tonight. Let's remember Joe has come under a lot of pressure in the last couple of weeks.
"We worked really hard on head and head movement and I was very happy with Joe's movement tonight.
"I think Joseph is very, very confident now. He's right where he need to be. We have some very exciting things happening in the future. Joseph is in the right place for his future. It was a very, very good performance."
Parker, relaxed as usual as he bounced to the ring in south Auckland, said he had found his spark again after a couple of flat results, and he showed it tonight.
The eight-week training camp appeared to press all the right buttons. He was far too quick and powerful for Dimitrenko, who had lost only twice in 40 fights, but has never faced someone with the class of 24-year-old Parker. It must be considered as Parker's best performance in two years.
Dimitrenko was given a standing eight count by referee Marlon Wright in the first round and two more in the second round. All appeared 50-50 knockdowns, but the 2.01m Dimitrenko has a habit of losing his balance when coming forward and it cost him dearly.
Dimitrenko made his way to the ring after an excruciatingly long walk-on song, appeared bamboozled by Parker in the first round and he never recovered, although he did land a couple of right hands under Parker's left eye.
The fight was shown in 53 countries, including the United Kingdom and was the biggest boxing broadcast out of New Zealand. It showed yet again that Parker is ready for the much bigger things to come, including several options for title fights.
For him, now undefeated after 21 professional fights, the exciting journey continues.
Parker was ringside as his 22-year-old brother John celebrated his professional debut with a majority decision victory over Ratu Dawai.
More good news for the elder Parker followed when friend and stablemate Izu Ugonoh extended his unbeaten professional record to 17 wins with an impressive second-round knockout of Frenchman Gregory Tony, whose previous victims included the tough Carlos Takam.
Ugonoh, in tremendous physical shape as usual, dropped Tony in the first round with a straight right to the head and floored him twice in the second round with more power from his right hand. Tony left the ring looking very uncomfortable.
The victory by Ugonoh, a Polish-Nigerian based with Parker in Las Vegas, should open up some lucrative opportunities on the heavyweight scene.
"I feel like my time is starting right now," he said.
Promising New Zealand heavyweight Junior Fa extended his unbeaten professional career to six wins when he beat Alapati A'asa by unanimous decision in the main undercard fight.