NEW ZEALAND heavyweight Joseph Parker has had quite a 2018.
He hasn’t actually won a fight this year, it’s worth noting, but the amount of money he has banked suggests no man has capitalised on the thriving heavyweight landscape quite like the 26-year-old former WBO champion.
His year began with a March unification fight against Anthony Joshua, the money man in the division, which was then followed by an exciting rebound scrap against one of Joshua’s rivals, Dillian Whyte. Both fights ended in defeat for Parker, but, in agreeing to travel to the UK, and initially putting his WBO title on the line, it’s fair to say a couple of healthy pay checks will have provided some welcome consolation.
Now, though, it’s all about rebuilding. Crucially, it’s about getting a win secured before the year is out.
To this end, Parker’s team have announced a return to the ring on December 15 at Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena. It will be his first fight in New Zealand in 18 months.
“We had plenty of options for Joseph’s return fight after a couple of tough but highly credible losses,” Higgins said.
“But Christchurch was a clear front-runner from very early on. We’ve got great partners in the city, such as ChristchurchNZ, Christchurch Airport and Christchurch Casino. It’s thanks to their unwavering support of Joseph that we’re able to bring what will be a fantastic event to the city.”
They’re calling it the first stop in his quest to return to the top of world heavyweight boxing, but, in the eyes of calmer men, it will be seen only as the chance to get back in the win column.
“After a five-year undefeated run that took Joseph all the way to winning the WBO world title we now find ourselves in very unusual territory – coming off back-to-back losses,” head trainer Kevin Barry said. “Joe has never been in this position before and needs a top performance.”
His opponent will be confirmed in the coming weeks. Given the need for a win, any old win, expectations should remain low.
“Whoever they put in front of me I need to get the job done – and get it done well,” Parker said.
“Having experienced what it is like to reach the pinnacle of the sport, and then come back down again after a couple of tough defeats, I’m more motivated than ever to get back on top.
“I can’t wait to fight again in Christchurch. I’ve got really good memories from my last time there (a fourth round KO of Solomon Haumono in July 2016). It’s a great homecoming for me.”
A boxing homecoming usually follows great success, perhaps signalling the return of a champion. In the case of Joseph Parker, however, this homecoming heralds the return of a brave, humble but ultimately defeated champion, as well as some shrewd business minds.
We’ve known Anthony Joshua would be fighting next April for some time and always assumed – nay, been told – the fight would take place at Wembley Stadium.
This, however, could be about to change. And it could change for these reasons: Deontay Wilder, the WBC world heavyweight champion, might be a man tough to pin down for April, and could even lose a December 1 defence against Tyson Fury in Los Angeles; Dillian Whyte, the prime candidate for Joshua’s next fight, could find a different direction more appealing and might be unwilling to wait; Jarrell Miller, the undefeated American known as ‘Big Baby’, could dazzle against Poland’s Tomasz Adamek this Saturday (October 8) in Chicago and turn the whole schedule on its head.
Interestingly, if the latter happens, it will not only land Miller a surprise shot at Joshua but will also switch an April 13 date at Wembley Stadium to an April date in New York.
“It doesn’t have to be Whyte if it isn’t Wilder, but Whyte is a good alternative for us,” promoter Eddie Hearn told the Daily Mail. “It could also be Miller in New York. That would be a big fight over here.
‘Our plan is still April 13 at Wembley, but it isn’t looking good for Wilder. We would keep Wembley for Whyte, but if it was Miller it would be a similar time (in April) in New York. Miller could sell tickets and, believe me, he is a handful.’
Miller, ranked at two by the WBA, has been mentioned as a future Joshua opponent for some time now and shimmied a step closer to securing the fight when the two had to be separated at a July press conference ahead of the Londoner’s recent defence against Alexander Povetkin.
So long as he remains unbeaten, and keeps running his mouth, it’s safe to assume it’s a fight that will happen either in April or later next year.