LONDON (AP) — Dillian Whyte moved closer to a dream shot at the world heavyweight title after dramatically securing a career-best victory over Joseph Parker on Saturday.
Whyte accepted the risky fight in an attempt to force a rematch with Anthony Joshua or a challenge at WBC champion Deontay Wilder. The British brawler may never be a more worthy challenger following his unanimous decision win in which he barely made the final bell.
A heavy knockdown in the final round and his exhaustion left him struggling to defend himself against former WBO champion Parker. But after an earlier knockdown, the first of the New Zealander's career, Whyte received judges' scores of 115-112, 115-110 and 114-111.
Whyte tried taking the initiative, and Parker was on the canvas in the second round after an apparent clash of heads. Whyte tried to dominate the inside but Parker would pick him off with jabs, though fail to follow up his infrequent good shots.
Whyte built up a lead with his aggression, and unexpectedly knocked down Parker in the ninth round with a left counter.
Knowing he needed a knockout at the end to win, Parker put down a tiring Whyte in the last round, but time ran out for him to press the advantage.
Both fighters entered the ring with only one loss, both to Joshua; Whyte in 2015 before any world titles were on the line, and Parker in March, when he lost his WBO title.
Whyte (24-1) has won eight successive fights since losing to Joshua.
Meanwhile, Dereck Chisora, who lost to Whyte by split decision in 2016, revived his career by stopping French fighter Carlos Takam.
Chisora was receiving significant punishment and was being outworked by Takam until a huge right hand by Chisora sent Takam to the canvas in the eighth round.
Chisora (29-8, 21 KOs) lost his only world title challenge to Vladimir Klitschko in 2012, and other bouts to Tyson Fury (twice), and David Haye.
Takam (35-5-1) lost for the third time in five fights, the previous two to Parker and Anthony Joshua.
Also, Irish boxer Katie Taylor took less than three rounds to stop American challenger Kimberly Connor and retain her WBA lightweight title a third time, and the IBF version a second.
Connor was struggling to defend herself after taking several powerful right hands, and was rescued on her feet by the referee as she fell to her fourth professional defeat.
Taylor improved her record to 10-0.