London, July 29: Dillian Whyte overcame a late scare to defeat fellow heavyweight Joseph Parker on points and further his case for a shot at a world title.
The two fighters capped an eventful card at the O2 Arena with a 12-round scrap that saw both recover from knockdowns to hear the final bell.
Parker began brightly, landing a rapid one-two combination in the opening seconds, while he also finished the first strongly, with a clean shot drawing gasps from the partisan crowd.
His fast start hit a speed bump when referee Ian John Lewis judged the New Zealander was dropped by a body shot in the second round, albeit replays suggested the most notable blow came when the pair clashed heads.
Still, buoyed by the moment of success, Whyte wrestled control of the contest.
The Londoner seized the centre of the ring, forcing the pressure against an opponent in Parker who appeared to be feeling the pace as the rounds ticked by.
Warned twice in the fourth for foul play, Whyte was willing to take a shot – his face flashed a wry smile when caught by a combination in round seven – to get into range.
His bravery paid off in the eighth, as a short left hook landed flush on Parker’s chin, sending him slumping to the floor for a knockdown.
At that stage it appeared Parker was slipping towards a second successive defeat, yet he showed tremendous strength of character – not to mention impressive powers of recovery – to launch a late onslaught.
Whyte wilted in the final round, a straight right sending him down, but found the strength to rise again and make it through to the end, allowing him to record a unanimous triumph on the scorecards.
The verdict - 113-112, 114-111 and 115-110 - secures the Londoner the WBC silver and WBO International belts. More importantly, though, it pushes him to the front of the queue for a chance to take on the two dominant names in the division, Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder.