By Brad Christensen
Joseph Parker’s Heavyweight clash against fellow Kiwi, Junior Fa marked the biggest boxing event to take place on New Zealand soil since Tua vs Cameron. The two clashed four times as amateurs, claiming two wins apiece, with Fa levelling the score when he ended Parker’s 2012 Olympic dreams by defeating him in qualifiers. 31-year-old Fa trains out of City Kickboxing in Auckland, owned and operated by world-class trainer Eugene Bareman, who found fame through training a certain UFC middleweight world champion. Fa also brought an impressive record, undefeated in 19 fights since turning professional in 2016. 29-year-old Parker was the understandable favourite going in, as the former WBO world champion, his elite status was solidified. However, after failing on the big stage in Britain back-to-back, this fight represented an opportunity for Parker to recapture the imagination of the Kiwi public on his way to a second world title shot.
Another notable fight on the card was the pro debut of David Nyika. 25-year-old Nyika secured New Zealand two gold medals at the 2014 & 2018 Commonwealth Games, finding a considerable Kiwi following on the way. His Cruiserweight matchup came against 29-year-old Jesse Maio, flaunting a 3-0 professional record. However, as many expected, it was all Nyika from the outset. The debutant landed two beautiful shots to the body in the opening seconds, demonstrating the benefits of his massive reach. Unfortunately, it was an anti-climatic ending for Nyika, as Maio went down 29 seconds into the fight after wearing a short right hand to the ear. Maio’s eyes were clear and he seemed to have his wits about him as he complained to the referee, suggesting Nyika’s punch had landed on the back of his head. Maio stayed on the canvas, seemingly in protest of what he considered an illegal punch. It was all in vain as the referee counted him out, not even one minute into the opening round. Nyika called it a “really disappointing” start to his pro career but reminded his fans it was just the first of many big nights to come.
A bittersweet scene introduced the main event, with Junior Fa walking out to Bobby McFerrin’s, Don’t Worry Be Happy, as one of his team carried a portrait of Fa’s late father. However, business time began as soon as Parker climbed through the ropes. Both men established a quick pace, with Parker looking to invest in the body early, shooting straight hands to Fa’s midsection. Fa found early success with a short-left-hand that clipped Parker as he closed distance, momentarily wobbling the 29-year-old.
Parker remained composed as he came out for the second round, continuing to work the body as Fa began to establish a piercing jab. Pressure was clearly a key part of Parker’s game plan as he continued to walk towards Fa, throwing big shots to the body. Fa remained calm and was able to get off some good shots coming out of the clinch. 6 foot 4 Fa demonstrated some slick movement, rapidly closing distance to land sharp right hands off the jab.
There was urgency shown from both men in the early rounds, but Parker looked to be the one dictating the pace and seemed to smell blood as he came out in the fourth round. Fa earned some much-needed respect over the next couple, as he began to time Parker’s jab, throwing right hands over the top of it. The 31-year-old was also having success catching Parker coming out of the clinch. Fa looked to be gaining confidence as Parker returned to his plan, throwing hard shots to the body.
Some serious leather was being thrown as we got into the eighth round, with Parker getting the better of most exchanges. A small cut appeared under the left of Fa in the ninth, opened up by Parker’s elbow as he followed through on a right hand. Parker began throwing bombs after noticing the blood on Fa’s face, but the challenger remained composed.
Fa came on strong in the tenth, forcing Parker to cover up as he threw some bombs of his own. Parker kept pushing the pace of the fight but seemed to start following Fa around the ring, rather than cutting it off and picking his spots. Blood continued to flow from Fa’s cut, as Parker landed a big right hand which was eaten by Fa with no complaints. The crowd began to chant Fa’s name as Parker again was showing some real urgency, hurling combos to the body. Fa found some great angles in the final round, landing a great uppercut on the former world champion. Outstanding conditioning was displayed by both men over the distance, as they both raised their hands in victory at the sound of the final bell.
It was a well-contested fight, but Parker seemed to be the aggressor throughout, out-landing Fa over the distance. Scorecards reflected that with a unanimous points decision for the 29-year-old. He will now likely move to number 2 in the world WBO rankings, an excellent spot to be as he eyes a second opportunity to get his hands on a world title.