Combat Sports

Parker v Fury: the battle for credibility

Forget about the referee. Forget about the ‘unhinged’ promoters. Forget the memes, mimicry and Manchester mafia.

Despite the sideshows, Sunday morning’s world heavyweight title fight between Joseph Parker and Hughie Fury still boils down to two men with plenty to prove getting their chance to seize their destiny, and quieten their doubters.

It’s a battle of the unconvincing, with the prize on offer a healthy dollop of ‘I told you so’, the promise of an even bigger payday and a WBO belt that remains the key to unlocking doors to rooms filled with loot.

Parker’s most recent display against Razvan Cojanu played firmly into the minds of those who questioned his world champion bona fides after what they saw was a lucky, unconvincing victory against Andy Ruiz for the vacant title.

The popular young Kiwi has an army of faithful fans, but the ranks of the non-believers has swelled.

Fury, by contrast, has convinced precisely nobody outside his inner circle that he is genuine world champion material. He’s the cousin of Tyson, the son of Peter, a young man with pedigree but a track record of inactivity, dubious injuries, failed drug tests and, when he does fight, a habit of climbing in the rings with bums.

The battle between two of boxing’s young guns hardly stacks up as a battle of equals.

On paper, Parker is the giant of the pair, despite the fact Fury stands an imposing 198cm.

The 20-0 Fury may be undefeated, but he has padded his record against opponents of dubious quality, while Parker has mainly assisted grizzled veterans on their journey down from the top of a hill they crested some years ago.

Fury is three years Parker’s junior, however the pair debuted in the pro ranks just six months apart and have similar records – well, sort of similar. While Parker (23-0) knocked off the likes of former title contenders Kali Meehan and Franz Botha and regional champs such as Yakup Saglam, Irineu Beato Costa Junior (experienced pros with decent decent records), Fury has mainly fought losers.

Seven of Fury’s 20 opponents have lost more fights than they have won. Czech Tomas Mrazek, who Fury beat on points over six rounds in 2013, has chalked up 40 defeats and just seven wins. As recently as 2015 – just three fights ago – Fury tuned up with a first round K.O. of the 'War Machine', aka 39-year-old Hackney resident Larry Olubamiwo, a fighter boasting an 11-19 record.

All-up, Fury’s victims boast a combined record of 275-240-23, for a winning percentage of just 0.51.

Parker’s 23 opponents have a 510-56-14 record – a winning percentage of 0.88. Just three of his opponents have lost more fights than they have won. The last of those was the 0-1 Dontay Pati, who Parker faced in 2013 in just his fourth pro fight.

“People always look at records but I don’t think you should,” Parker said shorlty before his first date with Fury in Auckland was aborted. “People say I’ve fought better opposition. That doesn’t matter. Once you get an opportunity to fight for a world title you’ll take it. The way I see it is that he has a great team behind him.”

Parker has a point. At just 22, it is no surprise Fury has been handled carefully. And his father and trainer, Peter, has form when it comes to plotting a trouble-free path to a big money world title shot, before engineering a massive shock.

Hughie’s cousin Tyson fought Dereck Chisora twice and that was about it before dethroning Wladimir Klitschko to claim the WBO, IBF and WBA titles in 2015.

“Tyson Fury is a perfect example of somebody coming in and causing a lot of trouble, surprising everyone,” says Parker. “Everyone thought Klitschko was going to walk all over him. He proved everyone wrong.”

With Tyson sporting a 25-0 record, it’s worth noting that both of Peter Fury’s charges are yet to suffer a professional defeat. And both fight an awkward, “gypsy” style that can be difficult to counter.

“Peter Fury is a very good coach, very thorough,” says Parker. “They are going to come into this fight with a good game plan.”

Parker, meanwhile, is overdue when it comes to bringing some genuine venom of his own. He was always in control of his victories over Ruiz and Cojanu, but never established the sort of dominance that would suggest he is a genuine rival for the likes of Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder.

Sunday marks his entry into the British market and, regardless of the shenanigans in the build-up, the size of the crowd and the number of pay-per-view buys, his standing will be determined solely on what he produces in the ring.

Parker needs to convince the non-believers with a knockout. But, more importantly, he needs to demonstrate that he truly believes in himself.

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