Joseph Parker and his team say the Kiwi heavyweight's vicious stoppage against Alexander Flores should silence those who say he's too nice for the professional game.
Parker last night knocked out Flores in the third round at Christchurch's Horncastle Arena but it came after at least two low blows against his Mexican-American opponent, who complained bitterly about the "dirty" tactics afterwards.
Parker's second low blow caused Flores to drop his hands and the south Aucklander connected with a right hand which flattened his opponent. Flores beat the count but was set upon straight away by Parker who scented blood and was determined to finish a difficult year on a high note.
The 26-year-old Parker said any low blows were purely accidental.
"There were a couple of blows that were low, yeah," Parker said. "It wasn't intentional. I knew there were a few but he didn't get knocked out by a body shot. It was a head shot."
Trainer Kevin Barry added: "He didn't knock him out with a low blow, he knocked him out with right hand to the chin that spun his eyes to the back of his head and he was down for about two minutes with his eye split open. That's a pretty decent couple of punches for me."
Parker, the former WBO world champion, needed a knockout to show he deserves to be considered among the world's elite and there would have been relief at the result.
Flores was technically sound in the first couple of rounds. His head movement was good and he got through Parker's defences with several right-hand counter punches.
But Parker's finish was emphatic and showed too that he meant what he said about bringing a harder, more ruthless edge to the ring after being physically dominated by Dillian Whyte in his last fight.
"There was a lot of soul-searching after the last fight in London against Dillian Whyte," Barry said. "A lot of people questioned Joe and said there's not enough mongrel in him."
Asked if the low blow controversy might take some shine off the win, Parker's 25th as a professional, Barry said: "No, I don't think so. If anything, it might silence a few people that think Joseph Parker is too much of a nice guy. We're serious when we're saying we want to get that world title back. That's our number one goal and this is the beginning of that."
Flores, who was a gamer and more canny fighter than expected, stood in his dressing room afterwards and said: "I didn't expect this. I expected a cleaner fight. He is a former world champion, I didn't think he would fight dirty. He clearly hit me low twice. In the last one… that one hurt me pretty good.
"He started getting frustrated, as you guys would have seen. He wasn't hitting me. I think he underestimated me. I'm disappointed. I didn't expect this outcome."
It has been just over two years since Parker has scored a stoppage win. This one is extra sweet too after a difficult year in which he lost is world title to Anthony Joshua in Cardiff and to Whyte in London after a headbutt which was scored as a legitimate knockdown.
"We haven't had a knockout in a long time," he said. "It felt nice. As a heavyweight or as a boxer, when you get those knockouts – you feel sorry for them but that's what we want. We're happy as a team but we hope that he recovers well from the knockout and the cut that he got. It feels damn good."
He will enjoy Christmas and New Year in New Zealand and Samoa before heading back to Las Vegas to train for his next fight which is likely to be in March or April. Among the options as opponents are Australian Lucas Browne, or either Whyte or Dereck Chisora, who fight in London next weekend.