Parker Prepares for Fury, Wants Joshua Next

At 25 years old, Joseph Parker has accomplished more than anyone expected of a humble kid from New Zealand.

The Kiwi boxer won a heavyweight world title last year, becoming the first fighter from his home country to do so. He went on to make his first successful defense of that title in May of this year, again in front of his home crowd.

The toughest test for Joseph Parker, though, is around the corner. This Saturday he defends his WBO heavyweight championship against the undefeated Hughie Fury — and he’s do so in Fury’s back yard. The fight takes place in Manchester, England, meaning Parker will fight outside of New Zealand and Samoa for the first time in over eleven fights.

The location of Parker’s next title defense has been the biggest story leading up to the fight. Parker’s promoter Dave Higgins crusaded against British referee Terry O’Connor overseeing the fight due to his past history with Fury. Following his press-conference outburst, Higgins got his wish, partially: O’Connor was removed from the bout but replaced with another British referee.

“We are still concerned,” Higgins told FIGHT SPORTS when asked about the potential for biased officiating. “It would be best practice to have a non-British referee. [But] it is a better situation than it was a week ago.”

While his managers and promoters deal with the controversy of the fight’s details, Parker has been staying focused on a single goal. He knows the challenges that Hughie Fury (cousin of former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury) presents. And he knows he won’t be able to look out into the crowd and see a sea of supporters as he had when he first won his WBO title.

Though it has been some time since Parker fought away from home, Higgins dismisses the notion that the setting will play a factor in Parker’s performance.

“First of all he fought in Germany on Klitschko card as a younger lady,” Higgins said. “He is very unflappable. He will still come to do the job.”

Fury represents the first big challenge of Parker’s title reign, and it’s a test he’ll need to pass with flying colors as he looks ahead at the rest of the division. The heavyweight class had been stale for many years, but with the recent influx of new, talented champions it has become one of the premier divisions in boxing yet again. Parker is one of several champions about to defend his throne; WBA and IBF champion Anthony Joshua, fresh off his momentous win over Wladimir Klitschko, fights Kubrat Pulev in October. Then in November, WBC champion Deontay Wilder fights Luis ‘King Kong’ Ortiz in the toughest test of his own championship reign.

Joshua and Wilder may have the bigger names at this stage of their careers, but Parker is determined to prove the merit of his championship. He wants to fight the best, and according to his promoter, that means taking on another Brit.

“We’d love to fight Anthony Joshua as soon as possible,” Higgins said. “Joshua is probably the man to beat. Not looking past Hughie but we want to fight Joshua in Wembley or in Cardiff.”

With Joshua predicting that Parker will be victorious on Saturday, it is clear that the New Zealand native is on the British champion’s radar as well.

Though Joshua may have established himself as the top heavyweight champion, the division is finally wide open again. The WBO belt that Parker will defend on Saturday is his ticket to the big stage, and if he gets past Fury he’ll be looking to add another belt or two to his mantle.

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