Parker upsets Wilder via unanimous decision win


Joseph Parker dominated Deontay Wilder on Saturday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, en route to the major upset victory in a battle of former heavyweight champions.

New Zealand’s Parker prevailed via scores of 118-111, 118-110 and 120-108.

Wilder entered the bout a -700 favorite, per ESPN BET, and did so with a deal in place to meet Anthony Joshua on March 9 in Riyadh, sources said. That agreement was contingent on Wilder and Joshua both winning.

Parker’s win over Wilder, which spoils those plans, was the co-feature to Joshua vs. Otto Wallin.

“Coming into this fight, everyone had other plans, but this is God’s plan,” said Parker, ESPN’s No. 8 heavyweight. … “Today, what a win. Merry Christmas to us.”

Parker’s strategy was a wise one: to avoid Wilder’s dangerous right hand and force Deontay to respect his foe’s power. Parker (34-3, 23 KOs) timed Wilder early and often with looping right hands over the top.

The game plan seemingly made Wilder reluctant to unload his trademark reckless right hands that always find their mark. But at 38 and with only one round of activity since November 2021, Widler admitted his “timing was off a little bit.”

“He did a great job avoiding a lot of my punches,” said Wilder, ESPN’s No. 3 heavyweight. “We make no excuses tonight. It was a good fight and we move onto the next thing.”

What the future holds is unclear now that plans to fight Joshua are spoiled. Wilder’s long heavyweight title reign ended in 2020 when he rematched Tyson Fury.

Following the seventh-round TKO defeat, Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) was knocked out in Round 11 of the heavyweight championship trilogy bout that was named ESPN’s 2021 Fight of the Year.

Wilder stayed busy with a first-round KO of Robert Helenius last October but didn’t fight since. And when he did step through the ropes, he looked sluggish and gun shy.

Parker defeated Andy Ruiz in 2016 to win a vacant heavyweight title but lost the WBO belt to Joshua in 2018.

The 31-year-old was knocked out by Joe Joyce in September 2022, but rebounded with three victories in 2023 heading into the toughest opponent of his career.

“He did catch me a few times and it’s a very hard right hand,” said Parker.

But it was actually Parker who landed the bigger shots against one of the division’s all-time punchers.

In Round 8, Parker connected with an overhand right that buckled Wilder and forced him to hold on.

Fury found similar success with looping shots during his three fights with Wilder, and Parker said his training mate helped him prepare with his experience.

“I’m back,” Parker said.

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