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Joseph Parker defeats Zhilei Zhang via majority decision and WINS the WBO interim heavyweight title – despite being knocked down twice in 'Knockout Chaos' co-main event

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The Kingdom Arena in Saudi Arabia has become somewhat of a fortress for Joseph Parker, who defeated Zhilei Zhang on Friday night to extended his unbeaten run in Riyadh to three.

Parker secured a majority decision over Zhang on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou – just three months after his historic victory over Deontay Wilder at the same venue.

The result has seen Parker secure the WBO ‘interim’ belt and become the WBO mandatory challenger for Oleksandr Usyk‘s WBA, IBF & WBO heavyweight world titles.

Reminiscent of his showdown with Wilder on the Day of Reckoning card, Parker exuded confidence ahead of his fight with Zhang.

From the opening bell, Zhang took command of the centre of the ring with both boxers feeling each other out. It was Parker who threw the first punch after 30 seconds.

Joseph Parker won the WBO interim heavyweight title after beating Zhilei Zhang on Friday

Joseph Parker won the WBO interim heavyweight title after beating Zhilei Zhang on Friday

Parker triumphed via majority decision after going the distance in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

 Parker triumphed via majority decision after going the distance in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Parker was knocked down twice during the bout but still went on to win via majority decision

Parker was knocked down twice during the bout but still went on to win via majority decision

Parker got caught on the ropes momentarily in the third round and took a powerful left jab to the face but finished the round with a bounce in his step.

Parker set the pace of the fight, utilising his jab to control the distance and keep Zhang at bay during the first half of the third round.

But Zhang kept his patience and countered Parker well following the 32-year-old’s jab to send the Kiwi tumbling to the canvas at the end of the third round.

Parker looked visibly shocked, with a small cut emerging across the bridge of his nose.

Parker responded well in the fourth round with a combination to the body before following it up with a strong left-hand to rock the Chinese heavyweight. However, it wasn’t enough to put him down.

Zhang spent much of the fifth biding his time, waiting for his opening. Meanwhile, Parker continued to unload powerful combinations before catching his opponent flush on the side of the head with a left hook.

A quicker start to the sixth from Zhang, landing two jabs in quick succession before attempting to walk Parker down.

Parker let his hand go in the sixth, firing off a left to the body and a throwing a right hand that just missed his opponent, allowing Xhang to counter. Thankfully for the Kiwi, he was just out of distance and escaped an almost devastating blow.

The New Zealander produced a stunning performance across 12 rounds to claim the win

The New Zealander produced a stunning performance across 12 rounds to claim the win

Parker's conditioning and endurance became apparent as he continued to press forward

Parker’s conditioning and endurance became apparent as he continued to press forward

The seventh round saw both fighters engage in close quarters, with Zhang connecting with an uppercut and left hand before absorbing several body shots from the Kiwi.

As the fight progressed, Parker’s conditioning and endurance became apparent as he continued to press forward, increasing the intensity of his attacks while avoiding Zhang’s left jab.

Zhang managed to knock Parker down in the eighth, with the Kiwi taking the count before returning to his feet to land a thunderous body shot.

A high guard from Zhang denied Parker on multiple occasions in the ninth round before the bell went.

As the championship rounds approached, both men started to tire. Despite several moments of success for Parker in the 11th, Zhang remained composed and focused.

The two heavyweights were seen conversing shortly after the majority decision was confirmed

The two heavyweights were seen conversing shortly after the majority decision was confirmed

Parker landed an overhand right in the 12th and final round with David Haye calling for him to finish Zhang with a left hook.

Parker continued to unload on Zhang but couldn’t get the job done with the fight going to distance at the Kingdom Arena in Saudi Arabia.

As a result, it was the judges who determined the winner – with the scorecards favouring Parker on this occasion.

As a result, Parker has won the WBO ‘interim’ belt and become the WBO mandatory challenger for Oleksandr Usyk’s WBA, IBF & WBO heavyweight world titles.

However, Parker and Zhang do have a rematch clause it their contract and will face each other once again.

But, it came as no surprise Parker was confident ahead of Friday’s bout as he entered the contest in exceptional form – riding high off four straight victories.

Afterwards, Parker paraded the WBO interim heavyweight title around the Kingdom Arena

Afterwards, Parker paraded the WBO interim heavyweight title around the Kingdom Arena

However, it was his most recent showing against former WBC champion Wilder that particularly stood out.

In what is arguably the greatest win of his career – Parker dominated the incredibly dangerous Wilder over 12 rounds to reign supreme by a lopsided unanimous decision.

Meanwhile, Zhang registered back-to-back knockout victories over top contender Joe Joyce in 2023 – and in doing so – established himself as one of the most dangerous heavyweights outside of the big three of Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.

Both men put on a valiant performance on Friday night, but it was Parker who emerged victorious ahead of AJ’s bout with Ngannou