Joseph Parker became the first New Zealand-born Heavyweight World Champion, narrowly overcoming the underrated Andy Ruiz on a majority decision in Auckland.
Both men were unbeaten coming into the contest and shared a close battle, but Parker eventually won on points with the scores of 115-113 twice overruling the 114-114 verdict from one judge.
Ruiz was the busier fighter in the early rounds and it was clear that the Mexican-American wanted to trade with his younger opponent, aiming to let his lands go against the more calculated Parker.
Midway through the fight the Kiwi settled and began to establish a rhythm, displaying consistent thudding power as opposed to the big knockout blows seen in previous bouts.
There was a lack of any devastating hits heading into the final stages as Ruiz continued to come forward but Parker did just enough to earn an effective but slender victory to the lift the WBO bauble.
Parker joins Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder as the Heavyweight World Title holders, and next up he could face mandatory challenger Hughie Fury in early 2017.
Undefeated Heavyweights Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz Jr. will meet for the vacant WBO World Title on December 10th in New Zealand, live on BoxNation.
The bout will be staged at the Vector Arena in Auckland, making the contest the first ever Heavyweight Title fight to be held in the country.
Parker (21-0, 18 KOs) had set his sights on the IBF route and was the mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua, but now he can become WBO Champion after Tyson Fury vacated the belt.
With 18 knockouts in his professional career, the 24-year-old of Samoan descent has demonstrated serious power and is the WBO’s number one contender.
He has already fought four times in 2016, including perhaps his most notable career win, a unanimous decision over the dangerous veteran Carlos Takam, and a three-round hammering of Alexander Dimitrenko.
Despite his young age, Parker already has a big following in his home country so the fight with Ruiz Jr. will be huge event in New Zealand.
Top Rank-promoted Ruiz Jr. (29-0, 19 KOs) is ranked third with the WBO behind Parker and Wladimir Klitschko.
The Mexican, who lives and trains in California, is three years Parker’s senior and is looking to become his country’s first ever Heavyweight Champion.
His highlights include beating former-WBO titlist Sergei Liakhovich, and knocking out Ray Austin, who challenged for Klitschko’s IBF belt in 2007.
David Haye will have a keen interest in the fight, as he is in line to fight the winner next year.