Joseph Parker has the knockout he craved against Faiga Opelu; a first-round victory in his first fight in Australia that was predictable but also impressive.
The Kiwi heavyweight, who had a 13cm height and more than 11kg weight advantage over Opelu, was expected to deal decisively with an opponent many levels below him in terms of talent and experience at Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena and so it proved.
Parker, who tipped the scales at just over 108kg – as trim as he has been for a fight in five years – quickly found his range and caught Opelu with a left hook and right hand and quickly connected with the same combination as he threw a flurry of punches in a clinical display.
Fortunately for Opelu, a 29-year-old former Australian heavyweight champion, Parker missed with a right hand as his opponent fell to the canvas and referee Ignatius Missailidis had no hesitation in calling the fight off after only 91 seconds without giving the stricken fighter a 10-count.
It was the right decision as the gulf in class was immediately obvious and Parker could potentially have seriously injured Opelu, who dropped to a 15-4-2 record.
At the conclusion of the fight Parker's friend Tyson Fury, the WBC world champion, quickly embraced him over the ropes and UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, also watching ringside, did likewise.
Parker, 31, now moves to a 32-3 professional record. It was his 22nd knockout victory and a welcome one after a series of uninspiring performances from the former WBO world heavyweight champion.
“It was about making a statement,” Parker said afterwards. “I haven’t had the best performances of late but it was a statement and I want to move on to the next fight as soon as I can. I want to keep busy and get back to the top as fast as I can.”
Asked what he thought of Parker’s performance, Fury said: “I thought it was a great performance. It just shows how hard Joe has been working in the gym.
“I’ve always said there are a lot of levels to boxing and Joe is a world-class heavyweight, a former champion who will soon be back there in my opinion.”
When asked who he would like Parker to fight next, Fury said: “I’d like to see a rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, or a re-match with Joe Joyce or Dillian Whyte or even AJ [Anthony Joshua] – f*** ‘em all! Joseph Parker is f****** back on the map!”
Trainer Andy Lee, who arrived for the fight only days ago due to commitments in Dublin, said of Parker: “He needs activity and he’ll be ready for anyone. He’s as good a heavyweight as there is out there. This man behind us [Fury] is No.1, we know that, but he can be No.2. He just needs activity and consistency and he’ll be there.”
Parker’s demolition of Opelu coincided with a similar performance in the co-main event by Australian Nikita Tszyu, who also stopped light middleweight rival Ben Bommber in the first round.
Meanwhile, Parker’s countryman David Nyika stopped Louis Marsters in the fourth round of their cruiserweight clash.
Nyika, 27, who stopped Marsters on the Gold Coast last year, weathered an aggressive early barrage from his 31-year-old opponent and was predictably far too classy in a bout scheduled for five rounds.
Nyika, a Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Olympic bronze medallist, extended his unbeaten record to six wins with an accurate and increasingly powerful display.
Switching between southpaw and orthodox stance, Nyika had success to both head and body, leaving the referee no option but to step in.
“It was a matter of being a little more patient and anticipating the storm,” Nyika said afterwards.