Anthony Joshua to fight Joseph Parker in March in heavyweight unification bout

The unbeaten WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker has promised Anthony Joshua he is in for a huge shock when the pair meet at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on 31 March. The fight, which was agreed on Sunday after months of wrangling between the rival camps, will also mean the 28-year-old Joshua putting his IBF, WBA Super and IBO belts on the line.

Parker, who turned 26 last week, is regarded as a 10-1 underdog by the bookmakers and looked unimpressive in his last fight when he scored a majority‑points verdict against Hughie Fury. But the New Zealander, who has a record of 24-0, with 17 knockouts, is convinced he has the speed and power to test Joshua’s chin – which he clearly believes is suspect.

“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, meanwhile, is in confident mood as he returns to the site of his tougher-than-expected victory against Carlos Takam, whom he stopped in 10 rounds in October. “These fights aren’t easy because there is a lot on the line, so respect to team Parker for taking the challenge,” he said. “And you know me, I love this game. I am looking forward to it, training camp is under way and before you know it 31 March will be upon us.”

Referring to his epic unification victory against Wladimir Klitschko last April, when he was put down before stopping the Ukrainian in the 11th round, Joshua said: “It is a unification heavyweight championship fight – and we all know what happened last time I was in a unification heavyweight championship fight: it was gruelling, it was interesting and we both left the ring with masses of respect.”

Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, is expecting another 75,000 sellout and a classic encounter. “Champions should fight champions and AJ continues to step up to the challenges,” he said. “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.”

Should Joshua win he is expected to face the WBC champion Deontay Wilder in a hugely anticipated reunification fight later in the year.

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