As Joseph Parker made his way to the media scrum wishing to get his reaction to his unanimous points victory over Razvan Cojanu last night which allowed him to retain his WBO world heavyweight title, he smiled ruefully and said, "well, I went 12 rounds so at least my fitness is good".
He was more upbeat in front of the cameras and microphones after appearing frustrated and having his discipline tested to the maximum by the taunting Cojanu, who tried - mainly in vain - to goad the New Zealander into a toe-to-toe war.
It was a comprehensive victory, with two judges scoring it 117-110 and one 119-108, but few thought it would go the full 12 rounds, and there is no doubt Parker and his team wanted a stoppage to set the boxing world on notice in the wake of Anthony Joshua's epic victory last weekend that their man is a worthy world champion too.
But the 30-year-old Romanian proved a stubborn and durable opponent, one who knows a few tricks and in particular how to use his superior height and weight. At 2.02m he is 9cm taller than Parker, and at 126kg about 14kg heavier. His holding and pushing resulted in a one-point deduction in the fourth round.
The crowd of about 3000 at Manukau's Vodafone Events Centre echoed Parker's frustration during his last fight in this country for what is likely to be two years at least, and while his performance was flatter than his supporters would have hoped for, he deserves credit for keeping his discipline in the face of Cojanu's provocation.
"He was saying I was scared but I wasn't getting sucked into his trap," Parker said. "I'm a smarter fighter. I move and box. He wanted me to stand there and exchange but I didn't allow it to happen so I feel like I followed the game plan as best I could, but there's still a lot to improve on."
Cojanu, his face covered in red welts and speaking with blood smeared on his teeth due to a cut mouth, revealed later that he was telling Parker to "to stop chickening out, to stop running, to be a man, to have cojones".
But he also added: "He's got power, but I can take a punch."
Parker's heavyweight opponents overseas, and particularly in the United Kingdom where the division is enjoying a boom, are unlikely to be worried about this latest performance, Parker's first in defence of his world title.
But that might not be a bad thing either. Bigger fights are coming and the still undefeated Parker is more likely to be under-estimated. Either Tony Bellew or Hughie Fury are likely to be next for Parker, and the outspoken Bellew in particular is likely to make his feelings known.
Bellew's promoter Eddie Hearn contacted David Higgins, Parker's, straight after the fight but Higgins was wary about revealing any details.
Parker's trainer Kevin Barry said: "I think Tony Bellew will be really chirping tomorrow. It will be great to hear what he's got to say. It will make him very keen to jump in the ring with Joe - let's do it.
"I think he's a great opponent for Joe."
Asked why, Barry said: "The style of the guy, the size of him, the way he moves. It's a fight - if he engages Joe ... it could be a very quick night."
Parker, asked if he would like the Bellew fight, said: "Love it, sounds good to me.
"It's a fight we would love to have in the UK.
Cojanu, who has sparred about 100 rounds with Parker in training, taunted his opponent from the first round in an attempt to prey on any potential insecurities and determination to put on a statement performance.
Parker, his face again unmarked but with a red graze above his left ear, said: "When you laugh and when you talk in the ring it means you're hurt.
"I did hurt him, I could see it. I saw his legs wobble a little bit.
"The times that he did touch me I didn't really get the impact of the punches. I just tried to move and dodge those punches because he does have power."
Higgins said Hughie Fury, who withdrew from the fight two weeks out due to a back injury, remained the mandatory challenger, and he was still in the mix. He hoped to have negotiations done between the interested parties within the next three weeks and Parker could be fighting again - probably in the United Kingdom - in August or September.