Combat Sports

The road ahead: Joseph Parker’s options for 2017

The ructions at his promoters Duco Events have overshadowed where the real focus should be for WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker: who next?

Although there are plenty of details to be ironed out and perhaps contracts to be tweaked, it appears likely Parker will remain with David Higgins and Duco New Zealand, while Dean Lonergan will oversee the burgeoning Australian market.

Regardless, whoever is at the helm has plenty of work to do to map a pathway to an eventual unification bout with either US-based WBC Champion Deontay Wilder or WBA, IBF and IBO golden boy Anthony Joshua in the reinvigorated UK market.

One of the few positives about Parker’s relatively uninspiring past two bouts is that fighters are queuing up to have a crack at the WBO strap.

The most vocal potential opponents have been Wilder, Brokeback Hughie Fury, David Haye conqueror Tony Bellew and the enigmatic and dangerous Dillian Whyte.

All four have been spitting fire in the media about Parker being an easy route to a share of the heavyweight crown. But professional boxing is seldom as simple as two big blokes deciding they want to throw down, and ultimately politics and commercial reality will be the most significant factors in determining who Parker faces next.

Lets look at the options:

Deontay Wilder

The power-laden WBC champion is 38 – 0, with 37 impressive KOs, but Bermane Stiverne remains the best opponent he’s faced in a lengthy line up of stiffs. Like Parker and Joshua, he also has holes in his game that a savvy strategist could exploit.

However, power will always get you out of trouble and Wilder’s right hand is the single most potent weapon in the division. If he lands, it’s good night nurse, bring me a pillow. Add to that, Wilder’s imposing 2m frame, his even more daunting 2.11m reach, combined with good eyes and a decent jab, and he is a risky proposition.

When you consider the reward factor, Wilder’s appeal diminishes. He’s not a big PPV draw despite his KO record, and doesn’t seem to motivate the tepid US market to hit the ‘buy now’ button. Struggling to fill the 18,000 seat Brooklyn Centre pales in comparison to 90,000-plus packed into Wembley Stadium.

The fact that Wilder was recently in the UK gobbing off at Tony Bellew mid interview is also a pretty good indicator that his eyes are also fixed on an eventual mega pay day with Joshua.

He also has a mandatory rematch with Stiverne to take care of, so his promoter Lou DiBella has a huge amount of work to do to even sit down at the table with Parker’s handlers this side of 2018.

Dillian Whyte

The controversial Whyte was part of the Sky Sports UK commentary team for the Cojanu Parker bout and immediately proclaimed to the world that he would knock Parker out.

At 20 – 1 with 15 KOs, the 1.93m Whyte is an interesting benchmark for Parker. He’s had three common opponents in Brian Minto, Irenu Beato Costa Junior and Marcelo Nascimento, which makes for an interesting comparison. Parker KO’d Nascimento in 7 rounds, Minto in 9 and Costa Junior in 3, while Whyte stopped them in the 3rd, 2nd and 1st rounds respectively. To be fair to Parker, they were his 8th, 9th and 12th fights while Whyte’s wins came in fights 13, 15 and 16.

Whyte’s recent win over Derek Chisora was an epic war, and he gained considerable press from hurting Joshua with a left hook in round three of his 7th round KO loss to the champ, so a victory over Whyte could be an ideal audition for Parker in the unconvinced UK market.

Whyte is also part of Eddie Hearn’s stable, meaning access to the champion is only a single impressive victory away. However, Whyte must get past the imposing Mariusz Wach on June 3 before he looks to another fight, and Tony Bellew, another of Hearn’s charges, looks to have jumped the queue with his recent victory over David Haye.

Tony Bellew

Tony Bellew
Tony Bellew reckons his victory over David Haye is more meritorious than Joseph Parker's entire career. Photo: Getty Images

The gobby Emeritus WBC Cruiserweight champion certainly knows how to promote a fight, and his scouser bravado has endeared him to partisan British boxing fans. And his popularity certainly was not hurt at all by his recent stoppage of the divisive Haye.

Bellew was straight onto social media after the Parker fight, tagging himself the giant killer while taunting the kiwi, describing him as a little heavyweight amongst huge giants.

The Hearn-backed 31-year-old claimed his one-fight heavyweight career outshone both Parker’s and Wilder’s combined career resumes. Had he defeated the David Haye of five years ago, he might have a point. But his confidence belies the reality of the bout with a broken-down Haye.

Haye was coming off two comeback victories over complete corpses almost four years after his KO victory over Derek Chisora. His timing was off, as was his previously vaunted explosiveness and speed. Despite this, Haye looked to be finding his range in the fourth and fifth rounds and walking Bellew down before his Achilles ruptured.

Although Bellew (29 – 2 – 1, 19KO) ate up some decent shots, the fact he couldn’t KO a one-legged Haye somehow seems to have escaped both media and fan boys.

Bellew showed decent speed, bottle and evasiveness early but the injury robbed us of a true test just as the fight began to look interesting. Bellew will not have that opportunity against a 25-year-old heavyweight who is in his prime, bigger than Haye and possesses better hand speed. Parker should walk Bellew down after some tricky early rounds.

Bellew is currently recovering from a knuckle injury sustained in the Haye bout but seems confident he’ll be ready to fight again in August or September. Word from within the Duco camp is that this is a fight they like.

Hughie Fury

He's ducked out of fighting Joseph Parker once but Hughie Fury remains WBO mandatory challanger. Photo: Getty Images

Brokeback Hughie Fury and promoter Frank “Hannibal Smith” Warren, must “love it that their plan has come together”.

They remain the mandatory WBO contender, having produced medical “proof” of Hughie’s back injury, and clearly Parker is heading to the UK for their next bout. Unless DUCO can conjure a side step worthy of Dan Cater, it appears difficult for them to avoid fighting the 21-year-old in his hometown within the mandated 120 day time frame.

Duco’s match maker and Kevin Barry’s public statements indicate they favour their man to win this bout handily, but I suspect they’d like to deny the fight on the basis of sheer difficulties they’ve experienced negotiating with Warren and the Fury camp.

Warren, however, remains adamant his charge will be fighting for the title and has continued to wage a war of words with Higgins in recent weeks. Despite Fury’s unresolved drug issues with UK Anti Doping, he still has his boxing license and that's unlikely to change any time soon.

The fight itself promises to be a more tactical affair. Fury’s tap-and-run, jab-and-grab style won’t make for an appealing spectacle, something Parker badly needs after the Cojanu bout. But, provided Parker doesn't become frustrated by Fury’s evasive boxing ability and lose his rag, Fury’s lack of power and strength to keep Parker off should see a mid to late-round KO victory.

The scenario sees Parker losing his composure and Fury jabbing and ghosting his way to a points victory in his hometown.

Despite the stylistic drawbacks of the fight, the Furys remain big draws in the UK and Warren, if he promotes, knows how to put on a show. A win will tick the dual boxes of introducing Parker to the UK and setting up a lucrative potential non-mandatory bout with Bellew later this year.

If Parker returns to the form we know he is capable of, he could set up a mega fight with Joshua early next year without even entertaining the thought of facing Wilder or even Whyte.

For now, that appears Parker's preferred pathway in 2017.

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