PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Former heavyweight world titlist Joseph Parker, looking to work his way back into a title fight, got in a good workout in an utterly one-sided, 10th-round knockout of former world title challenger Alex Leapai on Saturday at the Dunkin' Donuts Center.
Parker, fighting in the co-feature of the Demetrius Andrade-Maciej Sulecki middleweight world title bout, was in the first bout of a three-fight deal he signed earlier this month with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn that he hoped would lead to a rematch with Anthony Joshua, but that was before Joshua lost his three world title belts in an upset knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. on June 1.
Parker still is in the heavyweight picture in a big way, and he stayed on course for another significant fight as he beat and battered the iron-chinned Leapai, who took dozens of tremendous punches but would not go down.
Parker set an extremely fast pace at the outset and clobbered Leapai with an avalanche of punches from all angles in the first round, including a series of uppercuts and body shots to Leapai's ample midsection. Leapai showed a tremendous chin to get through the round and all the way to the stoppage.
Parker had another big round in the second, in which he landed more uppercuts and had Leapai pinned in a corner as he landed several hard shots. Parker was relentless, landing right hand after right hand in the fourth round, yet Leapai remained on his feet.
The pace slowed a bit as the fight went on, but Parker (26-2, 20 KOs), 27, a Samoan from New Zealand, was in total control, on his toes and letting his hands go.
Leapai (32-8-4, 26 KOs), 39, a Samoan based in Australia who suffered a fifth-round knockout loss when he challenged then-unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, continued to absorb huge flush shots but would not go down. In the 10th round, when Parker nailed him with yet another brutal three-punch combination, referee Ricky Gonzalez had seen enough and stepped in to stop the bout at 2 minutes, 18 seconds.
"I haven't been in the ring in half a year, and we got more rounds than I expected. But damn, he has a hard head," Parker said. "But I am very excited about my deal with Matchroom, and I look forward to putting on many more good performances in the future. When I started landing punches and he wouldn't go down, I knew this was going to be tough. I had to be patient and pick my shots to get the stoppage."
Parker won his second fight in a row since a lost 2018 in which he lost a decision and his title to Joshua in a unification fight followed by a decision to top contender Dillian Whyte.
Now Parker is hoping for another major fight. He defeated Ruiz by close decision for a vacant title in 2016.
"I want to take any fight that comes my way, and I really want to stay busy," Parker said. "I would fight Andy Ruiz. I know that he thinks he won that fight. Big ups to him for winning his fight against AJ, but if he wanted to settle his score, I'd do it."
Yafai routs Jimenez to retain title
Junior bantamweight world titlist Khalid Yafai easily dominated mandatory challenger Norbelto Jimenez en route to a one-sided decision win to retain his belt for the fifth time.
The judges had it 119-107, 118-108 and 117-109 for Yafai, who said he suffered perforations in both of his eardrums in the fight.
Yafai's speed advantage and technical dominance were evident immediately, as Jimenez, whose legs were unsteady from the outset, could do little other than back up, hold, grab and throw a punch from time to time. Jimenez was fighting for the first time in a year, and he was very obviously rusty.
Referee Danny Schiavone had seen enough of Jimenez's holding and docked him one point when he did it again in the fourth round.
Yafai (26-0, 15 KOs), 30, of England, who was fighting in the United States for the second time, stalked Jimenez (29-9-4, 16 KOs), 28, of the Dominican Republic, round after round and fired straight shots to the head and body against an opponent who was in survival mode for most of the fight.
In the seventh round, Jimenez went down when Yafai nailed him with a low blow. He was given time to recover, and when the round ended, the fighters exchanged words.
In the final seconds of the 12th round, Yafai scored a flash knockdown to finish a forgettable fight that left the crowd booing.
Jimenez was getting his second shot at a 115-pound world title, having dropped a split decision in Japan to Kohei Kono in 2014, his only other fight outside the Dominican Republic.
Yafai's goal is now for a much bigger fight.
"I won easily. Now on to the big fight," Yafai said. "I want [former titlist Srisaket Sor] Rungvisai, [champion Juan Francisco] Estrada, Chocolatito [Gonzalez]. Those kinds of guys have to be next. I want all the big fights. All the big guys."
Jones III shuts out Arriagada
Lightweight prospect Otha Jones III (3-0, 1 KO), 19, of Toledo, Ohio, won a shutout decision -- 60-54 on all three scorecards -- against Matias Agustin Arriagada (6-5, 3 KOs), 30, of Argentina. Jones looked like he might get a knockout early in the fight, but Arriagada sopped a lot of punishment and hung in there. He had some moments later in the fight, as he landed some stinging punches on Jones, but the outcome was never in trouble. Jones was fighting for the second time in a week after knocking out Michael Horabin in 100 seconds on Saturday in London.
"He gave me a challenge. Taught me to not go in there in the first round looking for a knockout," Jones said. "He made me adjust. I give myself a B tonight -- not a B+, just a B. I need to sit down more on my punches, placing my shots right. Then I can go from there."
Also on the undercard
Middleweight Mark DeLuca (24-1, 13 KOs), 31, of Whitman, Massachusetts, and Brandon Brewer (23-1-1, 11 KOs), 34, of Canada, waged an all-out bloody slugfest, though DeLuca was the clear winner by scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93. They traded toe-to-toe for virtually the entire fight, and the crowd rewarded them with a standing ovation at the final bell. DeLuca, who took the fight on two weeks' notice, looked like he might stop Brewer early and cut him over the left eye in the second round and over the right eye in the fourth. But Brewer was game and never stopped trying, landing many of his own shots and cutting DeLuca over the right eye in the third round.
"I felt like I could box Brandon. I wanted to box, but I got caught up. I said we were going to steal the show, so going into the fight, that's what I had in mind," DeLuca said. "I saw he was bleeding, and that turned me on. He saw me bleeding, and that turned the crowd on. So we went for it."
Super middleweight Alexis Espino (3-0, 2 KO), 19, of Las Vegas, destroyed Kirby St. Juste (0-1), 24, of Trenton, New Jersey, in the second round. Espino was credited with a first-round knockdown when the ropes kept St. Juste upright and then dropped him extremely hard with a left hook in the second round. St. Juste surprisingly beat the count, but when Espino, who is trained by Robert Garcia, dropped him again with a right hand, referee Eddie Claudio waved it off at 1 minute, 49 seconds.
"It felt good getting those knockdowns. I didn't like my last performance, so I was trying to make up for it," Espino said. "I have been sparring Vergil Ortiz. I have been sparring nothing but dogs at Robert Garcia's academy. It's crazy. I have three fights now, but I have just learned so much during those three fights."
Featherweight Raymond Ford (3-0, 1 KOs), 20, of Camden, New Jersey, scored the first knockout of his pro career, ending the night for Isidro Figueroa (1-1, 0 KOs), 20, of Mexico, in the first round. Ford took him out with a sharp right hand to the body. Figueroa went down to one knee and took the full count from referee Claudio at 1 minute, 28 seconds.
"I knew I was going to get him out of there. He came up to me last night and asked me for a picture. Today he asked me for a shirt. I knew that he wasn't ready," Ford said. "I give my performance a B, though. I've been working on my left hook to the body. It's going to my money punch. It's been getting stronger. His body looked soft, so that was the game plan: get to the body."
In what she said would be her final fight, junior lightweight Shelly Vincent (25-2, 1 KO), 40, of Providence, closed her eight-year career with a clear unanimous decision win against Simone Da Silva (16-13, 6 KOs), 35, of Brazil. Vincent was the aggressor throughout the fight and won by scores of 79-73, 78-74 and 78-74. Afterward, she thanked her fans for turning out and reiterated her decision. "This is my last fight," she said. "I'm getting old."
Vincent won her second fight in a row since losing a decision to Heather Hardy for a vacant featherweight world title in their rematch in October.
Providence middleweight Anthony Concepcion (4-0, 4 KOs), 28, knocked out Yasmani Pedroso (2-6, 1 KO), 30, with a right hand to the body in the first round. The shot dropped Pedroso to all fours, where he was counted out by referee Danny Schiavone at 2 minutes, 2 seconds.