Former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker 26-2 (20) needed 10 rounds to stop Alex Leapai 32-8-2 (26) in their scheduled 12-round bout at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island on Saturday night.
The fight was the main support bout to WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade’s title defence against Maciej Sulecki.
Parker, 26, started fast, bulling the shorter Leapai to the ropes and drilling him with hard hots from both hands. But the durable Samoan-Australian, 39, sustained the attack and launched some big overhand rights in that failed to move Parker.
The Samoan-New Zealander landed several hard right uppercuts on the inside, but Leapai showed a top class jaw to sustain the punishment.
By the mid rounds it was apparent there wasn’t going to be an early KO. Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry implored him in the corner to go back to boxing. Parker followed this advice, chipping away at Leapai from the outside over the next few rounds as he landed quick combinations at range.
In the 10th round Parker drilled Leapai with a right hand that sent him briefly stumbling backwards, prompting referee Ricky Gonzalez to step in and stop the fight at the 2:18 mark.
“I’ve been out of the ring for half a year,” Parker said. “It ended up going more rounds than I expected. I just had to be patient.”
In 2016 Parker won the vacant WBO title with a majority decision victory over Andy Ruiz Jr, who recently stunned Anthony Joshua to win the WBO, IBF and WBA titles. Parker remains the only man to defeat Ruiz Jr, with his only losses to Joshua and leading heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte.
“I want to avenge the losses to Joshua and Dillian Whyte,” Parker said. “I could fight Ruiz again. He thought he won the last time.”