ANDREW GOURDIE: Joseph Parker's WBO heavyweight title fight a night like no other

12/12/2016

Man, have Kiwi sports fans been spoilt in recent years, or what?

We've watched our All Blacks win a Rugby World Cup with a nerve-wracking win over France at Eden Park.

At the same venue we watched the Hairy Jav blast our Blackcaps further than they've ever gone before at a Cricket World Cup with victory over South Africa.

And seven years ago at Westpac Stadium, we witnessed the All Whites make history against Bahrain and go on to make more at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

All of these historic sporting events in our own backyard.

Saturday night's WBO World Heavyweight title win by Joseph Parker at Vector Arena was special, and a little different.

We've won Rugby World Cups. We've hosted a Cricket World Cup. We've been to a FIFA World Cup. No Kiwi's ever won a heavyweight world title. Until now.

The moment Parker walked out to Phil Collins' 'In The Air Tonight', it was tension and expectation that filled the air at Vector Arena. The nearly 10,000 in attendance sensed something special was in the air.

A swag of New Zealand sporting royalty including Eric Murray, Beauden Barrett, Mark Hunt and a host of others were on hand to watch one man - not a team - make history.

Andy Ruiz proved a formidable opponent. Durable and dangerous. He won the early rounds. The crowd at Vector were nervous and anxious.

But slowly, Parker got going. Using his jab that he promised would pierce Ruiz's face, but didn't quite.

It was effective, smart, and it required all of his fight education to claw his way back in the most important bout of his career.

It was obvious to all in the Arena early on that this fight was going to a decision.

When the scores came, the place exploded. History was made. What a way to silence the doubters. Joseph Parker is a heavyweight world champion.

Sixteen years after coming so close, the emotion from Kevin Barry was palpable. Joseph's proud parents beamed from ear to ear outside the venue afterwards.

Unlike other sporting successes that we seem so detached from in the professional era, Parker's story is personal. We've watched him grow up to be a champion.

The challenge for Parker now is to truly make his mark in a splintered heavyweight division.

Instead of making judgements about the validity of his opponent (unbeaten before last night in 29 fights), or whether the WBO title means as much as the titles of the other sanctioning bodies, look at this victory and this title as Parker's ticket to tougher tests in front of bigger crowds against other champions who want something he has, and has what he wants.

These are the fights that will determine how boxing remembers Joseph Parker, but whatever happens, nothing can change what happened at Vector Arena on Saturday December 10, 2016: the night New Zealand sporting history was made. 

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: JOSEPH PARKER BEATS ANDY RUIZ JR 

source: data archive