The three-belt heavyweight unification fight between Britain’s Anthony Joshua and New Zealand’s Joseph Parker will take place at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on March 31 on Sky Sports Box Office, it was confirmed this morning.
Joshua and Parker agreed to put their IBF, WBA Super, IBO and WBO belts and unbeaten records on the line, putting the triumphant victor within touching distance of becoming the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world since Lennox Lewis in 1999.
After an intense two months of negotiation, the contest is expected to generate upwards of £35million. Parker told The Telegraph exclusively yesterday that he would “smash Joshua’s glass chin”.
Joshua, of course, has other ideas. “I would like to announce the official news that myself and Joseph Parker will be fighting on March 31 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff. It is a unification heavyweight championship fight, we all know what happened last time I was in a unification heavyweight championship fight. It was grueling, it was interesting and we both left the ring with masses of respect.
“These fights aren’t easy because there is a lot on the line, so respect to team Parker for taking the challenge. And you know me, I love this game. I am looking forward to it, training camp is underway and before you know it March 31 will be upon us. Stay tuned for more news and I will see you all soon, God bless.”
WBO champion Parker said he was relieved the contractual negotiations had now been concluded as he could now fully concentrate on the job in hand. “Anthony Joshua is in for a huge shock,” Parker said. “A couple of months ago I heard him say ‘why should I be worried about this little kid from New Zealand’?
“Well, now he’s about to find out. And the world is about to find out whether AJ can really take a punch. My entire existence is now devoted to proving what the boxing world already knows.”
Joshua returns to the scene of his last action in the ring, where Carlos Takam became his 20th win inside the distance from his 20 professional fights, the fourth defence of his IBF crown and first of the WBA Super and IBO belts he landed in his epic, dramatic battle with Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium last April.
“I’m delighted to get this fight made – it’s been a long time coming,” said Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn. “Champions should fight Champions and AJ continue to step up to the challenges.
“It’s the first time in history that two reigning heavyweight world champions have met in Britain and it’s a classic match-up between two young, fast, undefeated belt holders and it’s going to be an explosive fight. This is another huge unification fight for Anthony as he continues to make history in the quest to become undisputed world heavyweight champion.”
Parker’s last fight was his first in England as he defended his WBO belt for the second time, outpointing Hughie Fury, cousin of former world champion Tyson Fury, in Manchester in September, moving to 24-0 with the win. The 26-year-old became New Zealand’s first heavyweight world champion when he landed the WBO strap in December 2016 against the undefeated Mexican American star Andy Ruiz in Auckland. Parker had defended the crown for the first time against giant Romanian Razvan Cojanu last May.
Parker’s promoter David Higgins paid tribute to Hearn and Matchroom Boxing for the up-front way they had handled negotiations.
“Eddie has been great to work with from day one,” Higgins said. “I know we ruffled a few feathers along the way but, as Eddie acknowledged, when you come from a small country and people perceive you as a small player, sometimes you’ve got to make a bit of noise. “New Zealand might be a tiny country on the other side of the world but it has a hugely proud sporting tradition – and a particularly strong tradition when it comes to whipping mother England.