JOSEPH PARKER retained his WBO heavyweight title with a controversial 12-round verdict over Hughie Fury after a close but largely unexciting 12-rounder. Two scores of 118-110 in Parker’s favour trumped a more realistic 114-114 card to trigger outrage from the Fury camp.

“I felt I won the fight,” Parker said afterwards. “He ran most of the time but it shows hard work pays off. The aggression was good on my side but his movement was really good. It was good to see the judges scored for me.”

Out of the ring since April last year, Fury opened exceptionally sharply. On his toes and pinging out his jab, he made Parker look clumsy as the New Zealander swung and missed with alarming regularity.

A tidy right hand on the inside in the third session, delivered as Parker came roaring in, was the highlight of the opening nine minutes. An uppercut from Fury in the fourth again exhibited Parker’s frustration as the champion desperately tried to close the distance. However, an accidental clash of heads left the Englishman with a cut over his right eye.

Parker upped the pressure further in the fifth and a clubbing right thudded against the challenger’s arms. That Fury uppercut came out to play again, but the New Zealander refused to be dominated and closed the round in control. Parker had further success in the seventh when a right made Fury hold on, and his aggression was starting to trump Fury’s movement.

At the end of the eighth, Hughie’s father and trainer, Peter Fury, warned his charge that he was giving rounds away and must start accompanying his jab with a right. But Fury, showing immense respect, was perhaps too keen to stay out of harm’s way. In the ninth, Parker pinned Fury on the ropes and hammered away but it was the challenger always producing the classier work.

Parker seemed to wobble in the 10th but, again, it was just a single shot from Fury while Parker – despite many of his punches missing the target or being blocked – was the busier man.

Going into the last round, all talk was on what the judges would favour and both fighters were urged to make the final three minutes count. Fury started the session with a right, but Parker soon scored with a big shot of his own. The feeling at the end was that Hughie’s superior skillset had done enough and, at the final bell, Fury instinctively threw his arms into the air while Parker needed more persuasion to celebrate.

In the end, though, it was Parker who retained his title but again failed to impress. And yet again, questions are asked over the scores; while the champion edged the fight in the eyes of some, the 118-110 cards were far too wide and something of an insult to the efforts of the challenger.