He did it the hard way tonight, did Joseph Parker.

After 12 rounds and the toughest test of his career, the New Zealand heavyweight has a guaranteed world title shot after a unanimous points decision over Carlos Takam.

At the end of it all in Manukau, with referee Wes Melton holding aloft his hand, Parker allowed himself a smile and hugged his trainer Kevin Barry. He's now set for a multi-million dollar payday when he fights for the IBF title currently held by Englishman Anthony Joshua. He deserves it, for he had to work extremely hard for it.

Read more: Joseph Parker - I'm ready for Joshua


Among the interested viewers was WBA and WBO world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who tweeted his congratulations minutes after the fight ended: "Welcome to big time boxing, respect to a young lad taking on a very tough guy in Takam. Very well done!"

A fight which began cagily - as it should with so much at stake - caught fire in the fifth round, with 24-year-old Parker wobbled and in trouble. Takam, the 35-year-old with a granite chin and relentless attitude, hurt the home town favourite and had him in a corner ready to land the knockout blow.

Parker slipped away, and in his haste to finish it, Takam leapt in with a wild swing and slipped, giving Parker time to compose himself. As it turned out, that was the last big chance he would get, for Parker punished Takam in the eighth, a spectacular round in which he almost punched himself out. He must have thrown 20 punches. Takam was wobbled, but stayed on his feet and even finished the round by throwing shots himself.

"I felt like I had him in the eighth. I hit him with a lot of shots to the head," Parker said.

Ahead on points, all Parker had to do was stay smart and keep his distance. He was tired in the ninth, a round probably won by Takam, but Parker returned in the 10th with his jab snapping again and from then on, it was a case of focusing for the remainder of the fight.

"It felt like he had a really solid jab. It was 12 rounds of war really. The key to victory was that Kevin told me to step back and use my reach and box."

This was one of the closest significant heavyweight fights of recent memory. Parker landed punch after punch on Takam, a defensively smart fighter who didn't appear hurt at all, even when stunned in the eighth round.

There were questions in some quarters about Parker's ability to take a punch. They are answered now, although the way he left his guard down at times alarmed his fans at the Vodafone Events Centre.

Home town advantage comes with its privileges, and Parker kept Takam waiting for an age before he took the ring during which the crowd was played a video montage of his greatest hits to Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight, which was stopped only by a cameo from All Blacks and Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg knocking on Parker's dressing room door and joining his large entourage.

He then began his walk to the ring and the fight started a tick before 11pm after three national anthems - the New Zealand and Samoan in recognition of Parker's heritage, and the French.

There was pressure on Parker but also Takam, who at his age was fighting in the last chance saloon. He was promoted as a tough, cagey man, knocked out only once in his career - against former world champion Alexander Povetkin in 2014 - and so he proved. Last night's loss was only his third.

Parker goes to 19 wins and will fight probably twice more - and probably in New Zealand before he fights for the title. That is likely to be in London against reigning champion Joshua. This win will make waves around the world. Parker said it was his time, and he proved it.

Trainer Kevin Barry said: "It was a great fight and a great learning experience. We've been taking a lot of little steps in the last three years. This was not a little step."