Combat Sports

Parker the gent in face of gypsy fury

The definitive moments in Joseph Parker’s successful title defence against Hughie Fury came just before and just after the 12 rounds of what can only loosely be described as action.

Shortly after a perfectly reasonable judging effort awarded the contestr to Parker by majority decision, the Kiwi was posing for photos in the ring with the WBO heavyweight belt held aloft.

A Team Fury henchman was having none of that, ripping the belt out of Parker's hands and making off into the throng on the opposite side of the ring. Parker’s camp had feared poor officiating might see his title stolen away, but as it transpired the thief in the night would be a fat bearded bloke wearing a black Team Fury shirt.

That comical act, combined with the less amusing booing of the (admittedly extended Samoan and Kiwi national anthems) and a good sized punch up in the crowd during an undercard bout didn’t exactly portray the Manchester boxing scene in the most positive light.

Parker, by contrast, was utterly dignified in victory. Noting that his opponent spent a good chunk of the fight “running” during a post-fight interview in his changing room was about the height of his impoliteness. Even then, he quickly back-tracked to compliment Fury on his efforts.

Parker is not a saint, but he is most certainly a gentleman. He’s not the world’s greatest boxer, but he is a legitimate world champion. The belt he will presumably recover from Team Fury was held for decade by Wladimir Klitschko. It has nestled around the waist of Tyson Fury, Shannon Briggs, Chris Byrd and Vitali Klitschko, and now, quite rightfully, has been retained by Parker.

He won the fight, even if the television commentary did its best to obscure the reality of what was transpiring in the ring. If evading punches while not landing any of your own was a scoring category, Fury might have had a better case for complaint.

But it’s not, and purely avoiding getting hit should never be enough to win a bout, let alone a title. That fact seemed lost on round-by-round callers who bizarrely glossed over the fact that Fury hardly landed a punch of substance as these confidently asserted Fury was closing in on his moment of glory.

It made for weird viewing, no doubt sowing doubt in the minds of the New Zealand television audience. Parker was far from perfect, but he was good value for the 10 rounds to two score on two judges’ cards. The 114-114 draw was the outlier.

Still, the big gulp of air Kevin Barry expelled when the decision was announced said it all. You never know in boxing.

There won’t be a rematch. The painful negotiations and spiteful build-up to what was ultimately a lacklustre mandatory challenge will have ensured there is no desire from the Parker camp for a repeat.

They’ll bank the money and move on, most likely to a date with the blow hard Tony Bellew, or the delightfully marketable David Haye.

Tyson Fury could be an option, but he’d have to conquer his personal demons first, and the money would need to be spectacular.

Parker’s biggest opponent, though, may well be himself. He’s already successful, already enjoying the trappings of the heavyweight championship. Staying hungry when your belly is bulging isn’t easy. How desperately does Parker want to prove he is on the same plane as Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder? How badly does he crave the mega paydays that will come with fights against his fellow champions?

For now, though, he can sit back and breath.

The WBO heavyweight belt is still his. At least it will be when someone tracks down the fat guy in the black shirt.

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