Joseph Parker got the first significant test of his career today in New Zealand, and he passed that test, beating Carlos Takam by unanimous decision with a solid if flawed performance that puts Parker in line for an IBF heavyweight title shot.
Parker (19-0, 16 KO) won on scores of 115-113, 116-112, and 116-112, all reasonable. BLH had the fight 115-113 Parker, and despite the close score in rounds, it was certainly Parker who claimed the fight -- or, arguably, Takam who gave it away.
Takam (33-3-1, 25 KO) started well, catching an overeager Parker in the first round with some good counter left hooks, a punch that was his best weapon in the fight, particularly in the first half. But Parker adjusted nicely in the second and third rounds, settling down and finding a tempo he liked, keeping Takam from so easily countering by using less reckless aggression.
In the fourth, Takam started to pressure a bit more in the second part of the round, and the fifth was a big one for Takam, who really turned up the heat and had Parker retreating and looking suddenly very exhausted. Armed with the information that he could put Parker on the retreat and do some damage, Takam chose to use that breakthrough to, well, not do much of anything in the sixth and seventh rounds.
The eighth was the most action-packed frame of the fight, as both fighters were buzzed a bit, and Parker expended a ton of energy with a mid-round flurry and attempt to close the show, which Takam got through relatively unscathed, then finished the round strong himself. Parker still looked tired through the ninth, but was bizarrely handed another couple of rounds from Takam in the 10th and 11th, obviously crucial rounds, at a point where Takam really needed to do something. He did get back on the front foot in the 12th and final round, but by then he'd already given Parker too much breathing room.
This very easily could've been a different fight, and Parker very easily could have lost if Takam hadn't clearly stepped off the gas in at least three rounds. But he did, and Parker had a lot to like here, too, showing well above average hand speed, some good combination punching, a nice body attack that we don't often see in the division anymore, a solid chin, and a lot of determination.
Parker is now the No. 1 rated IBF contender, with Kubrat Pulev recently beating Dereck Chisora to claim the No. 2 spot. The sanctioning body will likely soon order a fight between Parker and Pulev for the mandatory challenger position.