Neither man exploded onto the consciousness of the masses of boxing fans Saturday in New Zealand but for sure, both NZ native Joseph Parker and Cali boxer Andy Ruiz stamped themselves as quite competent world class heavyweight pugilists.
It was hoped their fight would be a rumble with plenty of back and forth action, but the Dillian Whyte vs Dereck Chisora fight yesterday took those honors in the heavyweight category, and maybe Fight of the Year honors.
After twelve measured rounds in a fight that was no barn burner but featured upper tier ring generalship for this division, long starved for star sorts, it was Parker who had his hand raised.
He lagged some late, huffing and puffing and slowing in the tenth, but overall, his wise game planning and focus impressed the judges and gave him the vacant WBO heavyweight title.
Parker rose to 22-0 with his jab acting as his best weapon, along with his feet. The arbiters saw it 115-113, 115-113, 114-114, a majority decision for the 24 year old, who fought with an admirable wisdom beyond his years. Ruiz’ stock rose as he dropped to 29-1. At 27, now training with Abel Sanchez and proving a stronger dedication to craft and bodily maintenance, he’s a lock as a top ten heavyweight.
I checked in with Sanchez after the faceoff. “Close fight, I really thought Andy should have won. I thought he took the first four rounds and 11 and 12, but when you go to a hometown you have take rounds more decisively,” Sanchez said. “I told Andy prior to leaving the US that we would be two points down prior to the first bell, but I was proud of how he fought hard for the full 12. So now it is more time in the gym with me, and he will be better next time.”
Ruiz was the more effective aggressor in the first round. His jab was active, especially to the body. In the second, Parker was more active, still on the back foot. He jabbed to the body and moved smartly. The two traded bad intention launches midway through. Parker could have edged the session. You could have given Ruiz the third because he was the more active power puncher. Parker’s jab was persistent, if consistently middling much of the time. It was used to interrupt Ruiz’ offense thrusts quite often. Parker in the fourth was moving, moving, mostly to his left. His trainer asked him for a snappier jab and he complied. So neither man pulled away, same as the four before, but arguably Parker was the better ring general. He blunted rushes, several times clinching a bull rushing Ruiz. In the fifth Parker controlled distance and pace and won the round.
To 6; they traded once then twice but mostly it was Parker pumping a keep away jab, using a mobility edge to engage basically when he wanted. A judge could have given Ruiz this round and others for coming forward, seeking to offer action. In the sixth, the distance closed. Parker chose to move less and that helped Ruiz. He landed one or two more power shots than the home-towner. Parker was busier of foot and hand in the eighth. Two power hooks were showy, but he mostly excelled with focused pugilism. His jab was constant and a tone setter. To 9; Parker was the leader, while retreating. Ruiz would follow but not throw enough. He landed some but more so to the body. He’d need to land head shots to change the game, especially on the other guys’ home turf.
Ruiz had the edge in power punches in round 10, which saw Parker not as crisp, likely from fatigue. In the 11th, Parker was again moving less from wearied legs. Ruiz again had better luck getting a bead on the more stationary target. No one ran away with the 12th though Parker had long stretches retreating and not offering offense. We’d head to the cards and the out of towner might have been wise not to get his hopes raised in the other guy’s barn.
Sanchez wrapped it up. “It was decent action for a heavyweight fight, two guys that will get better from this fight. Andy for sure was better in this fight and will be much better for next, understanding what is needed to compete and stay at a world class level. So this fight will propel them to proving their worth at that world championship level.”