Joseph Parker dominated Deontay Wilder today in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, en route to the major upset 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 as 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 victory 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,” Parker told ESPN Sports.
“Today, what a win. Merry Christmas to us.”
Parker’s strategy was a wise one: to avoid Wilder’s dangerous right hand while forcing him 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 hand that always finds its mark. But at 38 years old and with only one round of activity since November 2021, the American fighter 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 on to 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 that seventh-round TKO defeat, Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) was knocked out in Round 11 by Fury of the heavyweight championship trilogy bout that was named ESPN’s 2021 Fight of the Year.
Wilder earned a first-round knockout of Robert Helenius in October 2022 but hadn’t fought since. And when Wilder did step through the ropes on Saturday, he looked sluggish and gun-shy.
Parker, 31, defeated Andy Ruiz in 2016 to win a vacant heavyweight title but lost the WBO belt to Joshua in 2018.
He was knocked out by Joe Joyce in September 2022 but rebounded with three victories in 2023 before fighting his toughest opponent.
“He did catch me a few times, and it’s a very hard right hand,” Parker said of Wilder.
But it was 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.