Parker Expecting ‘Hell Of A Fight’ vs. Joshua

Boxing’s heavyweight division is slowly returning to prominence over the last couple of years, and while it’s still a far cry from the glory days of years past, both its relevancy and popularity have increased dramatically since becoming mostly an afterthought at the turn of the century.

The two biggest names in the division right now are Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua. The former is the WBC heavyweight champion, while the latter holds the IBF, WBA and IBO heavyweight titles. Boxing fans have been clamoring for a fight between Wilder and Joshua, who are both undefeated, for quite a while now, but a third undefeated heavyweight champion stands in the way of that happening.

His name is Joseph Parker (24-0).

Parker, 26, currently holds the WBO heavyweight title, winning it by majority decision over Andy Ruiz back in December 2016. He has defended the title twice since then, winning a majority decision over Hughie Fury in his most recent fight this past September. On March 31 in Cardiff, Wales, the New Zealand native will be taking on Joshua in the first heavyweight title-unification bout since Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield 19 years ago.

“It’s exciting to be a part of it and see it come back alive because it was dead for a bit,” Parker told FIGHT SPORTS recently. “Now that I’m fighting Joshua, I hope that Wilder fights myself or Joshua, I hope that all these big fights happen because the best will be fighting the best.”

Yes, the heavyweight division is alive and well and thriving once again. And with Parker, Joshua, and Wilder all at the top, plus former champion Tyson Fury, who is also undefeated and will be returning to action soon, the next couple of years will yield gargantuan matchups. It seems the heavyweight division was destined to return to greatness, according to Parker’s promoter and founder/director of DUCO Events, David Higgins, because “boxing is cyclical,” he said, before revealing his theory.

“Over time you get a star like Muhammad Ali, who had some good rivalries with the likes of Joe Frazier and George Foreman,” Higgins explained. “And then that star sort of fades away. And people go, ‘Boxing is dead’ or ‘It’s dying.’ And then suddenly a star comes along like Mike Tyson, and some good rivalries like Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe. Then it sort of fades away under [Wladimir] Klitschko because the belts weren’t unified and Klitschko’s style was sort of pedestrian, and there weren’t American heavyweight stars. And you had interest wane.

“Now, as you rightly point out, we are coming into a golden era where you’ve got Americans and Europeans, you’ve got multiple unbeaten guys who actually do want to unify. And once you have one unified world champion, undisputed world champion, the world knows who the best boxer is and the world takes more interest. When they fight the world will be watching.”

Around 80,000 fans will be on hand at Principality Stadium to see Parker and Joshua collide inside the ring, which will be a record for that venue. And according to Higgins, “A global TV audience of nearly a billion” will also be watching the heavyweight showdown, making it the biggest audience Parker has ever fought in front of. “This is another level,” said Parker, describing the magnitude of the upcoming fight.

“It was a great chance to win a world title against Andy Ruiz, but this is a different deal,” continued Parker, who defeated Ruiz at Vector Arena in Australia, which holds 12,000 people. “Joshua is at the top. He’s also got the other belt. This is the biggest fight of my career.”

Exposing Weakness In Joshua

Parker, of course, respects Joshua’s abilities and his thunderous power, but he’s confident he and his trainer Kevin Barry have put together the proper game plan for success.

“Like every fighter, he has strengths and weaknesses,” said Parker, who has sparred with Malik Scott, Razvan Cojanu and Tony Yoka in preparation for Joshua. “I think his strengths are that he comes forward, he’s got power. He’s got some good speed. Almost every fight we’ve seen he keeps getting better and better. I know that the game plan we come up with we can expose some of his weaknesses. He is probably going to try to do the same thing. I think off of movement, and speed and angles, I think it will cause him a bit of upset. You never know, he may be working on trying to counter these things. So, that’s why it’s so exciting because both fighters have a lot to work on, but when they come together we are going to see who has been working a lot more on those weaknesses.”

Credit: LAWRENCE LUSTIG

In a recent interview with Las Vegas Sports Network, Barry said, “Everything is right on point at the moment for Joe to have a career-best fight.” According to Barry, Parker will weigh around 242 pounds on March 31 and will need to be “very busy” and “very mobile” to upset Joshua. The prevailing thought from Parker’s camp is that speed kills, and that will be Parker’s greatest weapon to deploy against Joshua.

“He’s got lighting quick hands,” Higgins boasted. “He’s always been fast. He’s been able to put together more combinations. Kevin Barry, his trainer, has done a great job teaching him new things and not getting overly complicated, just adding new routines. And so basically he’s just growing up in the ring and he’s now at a point where he’s firing on all cylinders and has never felt better.”

It’s also recently been revealed that Parker had surgery on both of his elbows this past November and December to alleviate some issues he was dealing with in his last few fights, which means Parker could be at 100 percent for the first time in several years when he steps in the ring to face Joshua.

Whoever wins it, though, Parker is of the mind that the fight likely won’t go to the judges for a decision. With 18 knockouts to his credit, and Joshua having 20 knockouts in all 20 of his fights, “There is a big chance it will finish before the distance,” Parker said. “It can go either way. It’s boxing, any punch can change anything.”

Parker, like Joshua, also possesses great power. And if he catches the UK champion, he says he won’t let him off the hook.

“If I do get the chance to hurt him, I’m going to chase him down and I’m not going to give him a chance. “But again,” he made sure to note, “I’m facing a guy who is going to come prepared and is eager to win and unify the division himself. That’s why it’s going to be a great fight.”

More Money In The Rematch

Just in case you aren’t aware, should Parker prevail against Joshua there is a rematch clause in the fight contract. That means Parker would be obligated to face Joshua once again before moving forward to a possible fight against Wilder.

Higgins explained that they were not happy with the initial offer early on in the negotiations with Hearn, but ended up getting a deal they were very pleased with. “We managed to increase our share of the pie and in the end we made it to the point where everyone was happy and happy with their deal,” he said.

Reports have indicated Parker will stand to make between a 30-35 percent share of the fight purse. But should there be a rematch “The tables will turn,” Parker said. The carrot that was reportedly dangled in front of Parker, was a 55-45 purse split in his favor for the rematch should he prevail on March 31. However, there is a caveat: If Parker loses he does not get a rematch.

“Well, we are confident,” said Higgins. “We have genuine belief in Joseph Parker, and he has genuine confidence and belief that he can beat Anthony Joshua, and so there will be a rematch, yes.”

If Parker is victorious, he said “In a perfect world” he’d like to have the rematch “at the end of the year.” He then spoke honestly and candidly on what would be next if he loses to Joshua.

“Just being realistic, if he wins there is no rematch for me,” he said. “I’m just going to go back to the drawing board again and fight straight away. There is no point in taking a big break or big down time when you lose a fight. I think you just get back there and fight again. But, I’m happy to have a rematch.”

“The rematch will be even bigger,” Parker predicted, before switching back to the task at hand. “I think the main focus is to make this fight a tremendous fight. There’s a lot of people coming and tuning in. We want to make this fight a hell of a fight, not just … we want to make it an exciting classic.”

The fight will be broadcast live on Showtime in the United States, which Parker said is the “perfect place to be fighting on” to get his name–and Joshua’s–out to boxing fans in the United States. Higgins said the fight is “undoubtedly” the biggest co-promoted event he and Eddie Hearn have ever been involved in. The combination of UK fans for Joshua, and New Zealand and Samoan fans for Parker, will make for “an electric atmosphere” inside Principality Stadium on fight night, said Higgins.

Parker, according to Higgins, “Processes pressure as excitement” and will go into this fight “Very relaxed and unflappable.”

“I want to go out there, like I said, and put on my best performance,” said Parker, who gave his assurance the moment will not be too big for him.

“We’ve had good practice with the 24 fights we’ve had, so we know leading up to fights when to get excited, when to get amped up, when it’s time to knuckle down and do hard work. Even though this is a different level in terms of audience, it’s still the same thing. There is an opponent in front of me. There is a ring in front of me. You just have to treat it as another fight. Even though you are fighting a better fighter, you just have to treat it as another fight. Like I said, our team loves challenges. We love the challenge of traveling over to fight in his backyard. We love the challenge of fighting in front of all those people. It’s going to be something new and we are looking forward to it.”

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