Hughie Fury failed in his first shot at a world title as New Zealand’s Joseph Parker retained his WBO heavyweight championship with a controversial points win at the Manchester Arena.
Parker was the aggressor throughout, with Briton Fury happy to box off his jab, and the visiting fighter finished strongly, landing solid shots late on.
The scorecards were divided, one had it a 114-114 draw, the other two giving it to the champion by 118-110.
Fury’s camp was angry at the verdict.
Not for the first time in recent weeks, scorecards in a world title fight will draw scrutiny. Fury’s camp feel hard done by but their man perhaps paid the price for caution throughout.
He made Parker miss a lot but the victor landed enough solid work to ensure his rival rarely came forward to take control.
It led to a second defence of the title, though it is unlikely this display will send the statement through the heavyweight division that Parker hoped for on his UK bow.
Leaping and chasing – how the fight played out…
Parker, boasting a far superior knockout percentage, was prepared to chase early, leaping in with club-like swings which failed to register anything meaningful against an opponent repeatedly circling the ring and jabbing tamely.
One of Parker’s lunges saw him picked off with a sweet right uppercut in the fourth but Fury ended the round cut above his right eye when another leap forward by his rival saw the pair clash heads.
A brief switch to southpaw from Fury in round five did little to change the flow. He moved, Parker chased and landed three right hands, the third one powerful – up and under the guard of his 6ft 6in opponent.
A right uppercut and later a counter-right from Fury caught the eye in six but he was not landing anything telling enough to dent Parker’s confidence. In the ninth, the champion delivered the heaviest shot of the night, a left hook finding the target and briefly leaving Fury desperate to cling on.
The sound of an overhand right from Parker thudded around ringside in the 10th. He clearly wanted to make a statement but in truth, much of his work to eventually pin his man into corners was wasted with inaccurate shots when up close.
But late on his conditioning looked clear. His camp had spoken of this being the best version they had seen of their man in training and two overhand rights – the first finding Fury’s jaw – were stinging.
The aggressor was getting his rewards late on but both camps entered the ring to hail their man the winner on the bell. One of Fury’s team made the sign of the cross three times before the decision. It proved ineffective. The scores read were arguably a touch harsh but Parker’s camp could convincingly argue Fury only ever did enough to try to pinch the fight.
A stepping stone
It seems strange to consider a bout for a WBO title once held by the likes of both Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko as a contest for the right to be considered a viable opponent for the division’s two biggest names.
World titles should represent the pinnacle. But many in the media felt Parker viewed this as little more than a stepping stone en route to a meeting with either American WBC champion Deontay Wilder or Britain’s Anthony Joshua, who holds the other two belts in the heavyweight division.
Parker’s team was adamant this would be comprehensive, pointing to 16 months of inactivity for his 23-year-old rival. The opponents the champion had faced also looked tougher on paper, with a combined 108 defeats compared to over 200 losses on the records of Fury’s previous rivals.
Perhaps those slightly tougher examinations shone through, though Parker will need to impress much more if he is to land his shot at Wilder or Joshua. The plan is now for him to train in Las Vegas, while spending more time building a UK profile.
He may prosper more against men prepared to trade. But against the very best, his at times wild swings must become more crisp, more accurate. Still, he is unbeaten, a world champion and will have options.
Where now for Fury?
Fury’s promoter, Mick Hennessey, claimed “corruption” in the scoring in the immediate aftermath.
The bulk of media ringside had his man beaten, though far more narrowly than a 118-110 margin.
Fury placed his head in his hands on the decision. He carries the burden of his older cousin Tyson Fury’s name and arguably lives in the shadow of the former world champion, who begged the crowd for more noise from ringside before the first bell.
But Hughie Fury showed enough here to suggest he can come again. Recent years have seen him battle illness and he still has a UK Anti-Doping charge to answer.
With 21 fights, he has amassed experience and there was some nice elements to his evasive work. But it will perhaps take the introduction of an added dimension if he is to ever make a mark at world level. Time is on his side.