Combat Sports

The man who doesn’t exist

Joseph Parker doesn’t exist. That’s the key takeaway for Kiwi fight fans from Sunday’s classic encounter between WBC champion Deontay Wilder and Cuban challenger Luis Ortiz.

In the aftermath of his thrilling comeback win against previously undefeated and incredibly awkward Cuban southpaw Ortiz, Wilder busied himself by attempting to steal Mike Tyson’s identity.

“I am the baddest man on the planet and I proved that tonight,” Wilder said after icing Ortiz with a thundering uppercut. “This solidified my position at the top of the food chain."

As boxing fans know, there is only one – and only ever will be one – baddest man on the planet.

Wilder’s attempt to ascend to that particular throne says plenty about his paltry commercial appeal in his home country.

More than 15 years since he last stepped into the ring, Tyson can still flog ‘Baddest Man on the planet’ robes for $US649 on Amazon.

By comparison, Wilder, who is well and truly in the prime of his career, pulled a crowd of just 14,069 to the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York – and was roundly booed for four rounds before eventually winning the crowd over.

A black man from Alabama who has fought mainly in the economically depressed town of Birmingham in front of a loyal but small following, Wilder is yet to break into the consciousness of mainstream America in the way that Muhammed Ali, Evander Holyfield and Tyson did.

He isn’t about to feature in a Hangover sequel any time soon.

Which is why his camp is looking forward to a showdown with megastar Anthony Joshua so intently that they – along with sections of the international media - have completely forgotten that Joseph Parker exists.

The reality is that pretty much the entire planet wants to see Joshua v Wilder battle to become the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. And there’s only one bloke who has the potential to stop that from happening.

Showtime’s in-ring interviewer Jim Gray cut straight to the chase when he sidled up to Wilder following the official announcement of his victory.

“And now we move on to Anthony Joshua,” Gray stated, pretty much summing up the feeling of the boxing world beyond New Zealand’s fair shores.

“He will fight Parker at the end of the month,” Gray begrudgingly and belatedly added, before reverting to his original thesis. “You are going to go to the United Kingdom and watch the Anthony Joshua fight. What do you want to have happen after that fight? Would you like another fight? He has indicated he would like another fight. Or are you ready for this to be the end and get it on between the two of you?”

Wilder, at least, had the good grace to point out that his pathway to unification wasn’t necessarily guaranteed to be through Joshua. And that the “two of you” is in fact still very much three.

"I'm ready right now,” Wilder said. "I always said that I want to unify. I'm ready whenever those guys are. I am the baddest man on the planet and I proved that tonight. This solidified my position at the top of the food chain. Soon there will be one champion, one face, one name and he go by the name of Deontay Wilder."

Wilder, in what is very much a minority view, suggested that Parker had a “100 percent” chance of beating Joshua if he fought smart.

Of course, no one, including Wilder wants that to happen.

Wilder earned $US2 million for his showdown with Ortiz. The Cuban received just $US500,000.

It’s estimated Parker’s clash with Joshua will generate $NZ40 million ($US28.9 million), with Parker’s camp to pocket well in excess of $NZ10 million.

With Wilder having at last captured the imagination of the American market, a showdown with Joshua would vastly outstrip both Parker v Joshua – and a unification fight between Wilder and Parker.

The reality is that pretty much the entire planet wants to see Joshua v Wilder battle to become the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. And there’s only one bloke who has the potential to stop that from happening.

So you can’t really blame American and British (and even Australian) interests for treating Parker like non-entity.

The second key takeaway from the weekend for the man who doesn’t exist is that he shouldn’t be expecting any favours – or even anything approaching justice – should his fight with Joshua go the distance.

To many observers, Ortiz was bossing the fights against Wilder right up until the point he was spectacularly stopped. The ringside judges, though, weren’t among those many observers. All three had Wilder one round ahead going into the tenth. Their cards reveal that they sided with Wilder for pretty much every close round – and at least one that wasn’t. As well as Ortiz fought, he likely wasn’t going to win unless he knocked out Wilder.

His chance to do just that came in the seventh, when Wilder was rocked to his core by a hail of clubbing blows. Wilder somehow survived the round, and Ortiz failed to press home his advantage in the eighth and ninth. The chance was gone – and it wasn’t going to return.

The man who doesn’t exist will have been watching that. And – unlike himself – it won’t have gone unnoticed.

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