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'We knew it would be tough': Joseph Parker fans stand by hero of Samoa and South Auckland

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 31: Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker exchange punches during there WBA, IBF, WBO & IBO Heavyweight Championship title fight at Principality Stadium on March 31, 2018 [photo via NZ Herald]

Auckland, NEW ZEALAND — Boxing fans were queuing from 6am and some churches started mass late: Joseph Parker may not be the WBO champ any more, but New Zealanders still love him.

Parker lost this morning's (NZ time) world heavyweight unification bout by unanimous decision, but is the first man to go the distance with Anthony Joshua.

In Auckland, fans were gathering in homes and in pubs to watch the two heavyweights go head to head.

Many of them shared a heritage with Parker, who is Samoan.

In Mangere, an official at the Catholic Community Chaplaincy said he had heard some Samoan churches were delaying mass this morning to give worshippers time to watch the fight.

In Kingsland, a couple of members of the Congressional Christian Church of Samoa gathered at the minister's house next door to catch the fight before heading to mass.

Cars were overflowing from the Mangere Cosmopolitan Club car park on Bader Dr as Parker went to work this morning in his world title fight against Anthony Joshua.

The venue was packed, and cars were parked on the grass berms outside, as the hero of South Auckland and Samoa took to the ring in Cardiff against the UK's Joshua, hot favourite to win the unification bout.

Club manager Mike Cassidy said the mood had been "pretty hyped up" all morning, and people had been queuing to get in to see the fight from 6am.

They opened the doors at 8am - earlier than usual - to allow people in to watch the fight.

Cassidy estimated about 350 people had gathered to watch.

"People here appreciate an atmosphere like this, the excitement of it. If he [Parker] had if won you wouldn't be able to hear me now."

Boxing fan Mark Lyrik was there at 8am.

While his heart was rooting for Parker, he said he wasn't surprised Joshua won.

"That's boxing for you, eh. I'd go for Parker obviously because he's from here but in my brain it was Joshua who was going to win."

He thought most fans would feel the same.

"We knew it was going to be a tough fight."

Read more at New Zealand Herald