Combat Sports

Parker’s plan: win - and get the hell out of Texas

He may be marooned in Texas, but Joseph Parker is closer to a return to boxing's big time than you'd think.

Joseph Parker’s road back to boxing relevance won’t ever lead to the now fully resurgent Tyson Fury.

But that doesn’t mean the Gypsy King won’t be a key figure in the Kiwi heavyweight recapturing a crown of his own.

Fury, who produced a tactical and psychological masterclass to fully unmask the huge punching but technically bereft Deontay Wilder to claim the WBC title on Sunday, has categorically ruled out fighting his Kiwi ‘brother’.

The reasons are straight forward enough: Fury has no desire to fight a mate, and feels no competitive compulsion to prove himself against a boxer he believes he would defeat without breaking a sweat.

Even if the second part of that equation were to change – which would only occur should Parker recapture a heavyweight championship belt – the first part likely wouldn’t.

While Parker is certainly hard-headed enough to put sentiment aside to focus on business inside the ring, Fury is clearly a different kind of beast; the type that wears their heart on their sleeve, and isn’t much for turning.

Fury has pledged never to fight his Kiwi mate, and that's that.

But Fury could well still play a key role in Parker’s return to relevance.

Boxing journeys are seldom, if ever, tales of uninterrupted pugilistic perfection and personal success.

Parker’s fight this weekend, against 39-year-old never-wazzer Shawndell Winters in Frisco, Texas, is about as far removed from a world heavyweight unification fight against Anthony Joshua at the Millennium Stadium as it's possible to be.

A main event fighter for pretty much his entire career, this weekend Parker isn’t even the main undercard fight on a card headlined by Mikey Garcia’s clash with Jessie Vargas for the vacant WBC Diamond welterweight title.

Heck, Parker’s tune-up is not even the third-ranked attraction. With three world title fights to follow his scheduled 10-rounder against Winters – a fighter with losses to fellow nobodies Brian Howard and Nikodem Jezewski on his resume - the reality is that Parker will enter the ring before most of the fans at Ford Center at The Star have even pondered taking their seats.

And he’ll be showered and back at his hotel long before the real contests begin.

The last time Parker was such an irrelevance on a boxing card was his pro debut, when he subdued Huntly PE teacher Dean Garmonsway on the undercard of Shane Cameron’s shock victory over Monte Barrett in 2012.

Being so far from the limelight will likely be a sobering experience – not a bad thing for an athlete who has experienced his sport’s pinnacle but is yet to realise his full potential.

For a lesson on what can be achieved from his less than lofty current station, Parker need look no further than his gypsy mate.

Just 20 months ago, Fury entered a boxing ring in Manchester to face the less than well-performed Albanian Sefer Seferi. That contest deservedly had fifth billing on a card whose star names were Turbo Terry Flannagan and Maurice Mighty Mo Hooker.

That was Fury’s comeback fight after spending the two-and-a-half years following his victory over Vladimir Klitschko transforming himself from an elite athlete into a 175 kilogram human fatberg.

The linear world champ’s subsequent physical metamorphosis and re-accession to his throne shows what can be achieved in little more than the blink of an eye.

With Anthony Joshua and Wilder both having tasted defeat, the undefeated Fury is now the one calling the shots in the division.

While all roads would seemingly point to a unification showdown with fellow Brit Joshua, it ain’t that simple.

Fury is two fights into a $NZ163million five-fight contract with ESPN. Joshua is signed to US-based streaming service DAZN, while Wilder, who has a rematch clause, has a contract with yet another US broadcaster, Showtime.

That’s not a dynamic that lends itself to an all-British megafight.

Before his victory at the weekend, Fury said a showdown with Joshua was not an option until at least the end of his ESPN deal.

Throw in the fact both Joshua (who has more belts) and Fury (who is undefeated) have strong claims for a bigger slice of any pie and the odds of any deal being reached lengthen.

In the event of a stalemate, it’s a stone-cold certainty one or more of the four main sanctioning bodies will order mandatory title defences based on their rankings.

That, as it happens, is precisely the scenario that led to Parker capturing the WBO title in 2016.

Faced with a mandatory rematch against Klitschko, Fury vacated his WBA and WBO titles in favour of battling his cocaine addiction.

Then ranked two and three by the WBO, it was Parker and Andy Ruiz who found themselves in line for a shot at the WBO strap.

Parker claimed his slice of history in Auckland, with Ruiz following suit with a shock victory over Joshua in New York last year.

Both Ruiz and Parker have since faded but, as Fury’s resurrection shows, the bright lights are far from out of reach for former champs.

The recipe for Parker is obvious. Get back in the ring, stay active and keep winning – and his shot will come.

First things first – he needs to get the job done this weekend. And then get the hell out of Texas.

Steve Deane has contracted to Duco Events, the company owned by Joseph Parker’s manager and advisor David Higgins.

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