Boxing News At Five

Boxing News at Five: Parker targeting Whyte rather than Usyk, and shrinking ‘Bean’ fights rugby star ‘Beast’ in the name of obesity awareness

Joseph Parker
David Higgins says Oleksandr Usyk needs to build fan base before Joseph Parker makes "economic sense", and Manu ‘The Beast’ Vatuvei swaps rugby for boxing

NEW ZEALAND heavyweight contender Joseph Parker has, in the space of eight months, gone from WBO world heavyweight champion to a man without a title looking to halt a two-fight losing run.

There is no shame in losing to either Anthony Joshua or Dillian Whyte, of course, but they were defeats all the same and now Parker, set to return to the ring on December 15, is desperate to get back in the win column.

As well as losing a couple of fights this year, Parker has also been mentioned as a possible opponent for cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk, should the gifted Ukrainian decide to make the jump to heavyweight in 2019.

It’s what happens when the unbeaten record goes, and the blueprint is out there. You become a wanted man. You’re deemed, fairly or unfairly, a soft touch.

“Usyk, he’s got more work to do to build a fan base in the UK,” Parker’s promoter David Higgins told Sky Sports. “What I mean by that, Joshua has got a gigantic fan base, he’ll fill stadiums; Dillian Whyte has proven that he can fill the O2 Arena.

“Usyk, very impressive and clinical, but I think he’s got to string together more impressive victories and build a fan base before the fight (against Parker) makes economic sense.

“From our perspective, no question Usyk is elite. But fighting the winner of Whyte-Chisora would make probably more economic sense, and there is unfinished business.

“I believe Joseph, on his day, would beat Chisora or Whyte.”

Focusing their efforts on Whyte or Chisora would certainly be the sensible option where Team Parker are concerned.

Usyk, though not a fully-fledged heavyweight by any means, is big enough, at six-foot-three and 200-plus pounds, to fancy his chances against smaller heavyweights, like Parker, and no doubt good enough to give them countless problems.

With Whyte, however, the New Zealander, having already shared a thrilling 12-rounder with ‘The Body Snatcher’, knows exactly what to expect.

“It would definitely be unfinished business,” said Higgins. “A lot of people are saying that Dillian should win the (Chisora) fight, but you never know.”

“People were saying that Chisora would be cleaned up by Takam, and it was an exciting match-up, and the way it finished, you can never write anyone off. I certainly wouldn’t write off Derek Chisora.

“Whyte-Chisora could go either way, and if Chisora did come through, then I’m sure our camp would happily look at Chisora.

“Joseph is only worrying about his next fight in December, which is Alexander Flores, a puncher with only one loss and 15 knockouts. It’s a serious fight. But I’m looking at Whyte-Chisora. From our perspective, the winner would make an exciting match-up.”

For now, Joseph Parker, 24-2 (18), is less concerned about the winner of Whyte vs. Chisora on December 22 and more concerned with becoming a winner again himself. The comeback begins on December 15 and a victory, his first of 2018, has never been more important for the talented 26-year-old.

Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker undercard

In other Joseph Parker-related news, former Rugby league star Manu ‘The Beast’ Vatuvei will make his professional boxing debut on the December 15 Parker vs. Flores undercard, it was announced today.

Vatuvei, famous for his exploits with the New Zealand Warriors, will take on David ‘Brown Buttabean’ Letele, who is coming out of retirement to raise awareness about New Zealand’s obesity epidemic and motivate those struggling with the issue.

Thirty-two-year-old Vatuvei scored 152 tries for the Warriors in 226 National Rugby League (NRL) appearances and will now attempt to join the likes of Anthony Mundine, Paul Gallen, Solomon Haumono, Monty Betham and Sonny Bill Williams in the ranks of rugby and league players to forge a second career in professional boxing.

“I still feel I’ve got a lot to offer as a professional athlete and I’ve always loved boxing,” Vatuvei said.

“This is no experiment. I am seriously considering a long-term contract in Australia.

“I want to finish my sporting career with a decent crack at becoming an accomplished professional boxer.

“I definitely see myself dedicating the coming years to the sport and seeing where it takes me.

“This fight is a tough start to my career and a huge challenge. But I’m confident I’m up to it.”

Letele, 16-3 (7), turned pro in 2014 as a 309-pound heavyweight and last boxed, in February 2017, at a weight of 280 pounds. Nowadays, however, the staunch advocate of obesity awareness weighs a comparatively svelte 240 pounds.

“I know I was a bit of d**k at times when I first adopted the Buttabean persona,” Letele said, “but I’m pretty sure people know that was an act.

“Boxing helped change my life – I lost over half my body weight – and I’ve dedicated my life to helping others deal with the negative impacts of obesity.

“The BBM (Buttabean Motivation) team have had some great successes helping those who badly need it, but there is still so much work to be done. I’m coming back to spread that message. My journey continues – start yours today.”

Letele and Vatuvei will fight over four three-minute rounds at the Horncastle Arena in Christchurch. Admittedly, it’s a boxing match more about goals (drop goals, field goals, personal goals) than titles or rankings, but that’s just fine.

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