DERBY’s Zach Parker’s dream of facing Demetrius Andrade turned into a nightmare when the American withdrew from the first proposed contest due to a shoulder injury, and then walked away a second time, citing the need to secure a bigger fight.
Pride Park, the home of Derby County, Parker’s hometown team, was booked and good to go for May 21 only for Parker to be left high and dry. Last week, it happened again for the second time when “Boo Boo” said “No, no”.
The 28-year-old has been here before. In the past, his stop-start career was more stop than start. But he’s confident that things are on the up. Parker signed with promoter Frank Warren last year, has had three fights in quick succession under him so he is confident that Warren will guide him to the WBO super-middleweight title, which should have been contested against Andrade, sooner rather than later.
“Frank and [manager] Neil [Marsh] are behind me,” he told Boxing News. “To have a team, you need trust. Neil and Frank promised to deliver. Neil was with me through some hard times. Neil did things to help me when he didn’t need to do it. We don’t let too many outsiders in and
I have trust in the people around me.
“My team will remain the same throughout my career. I can’t wait to hear the words, ‘And the new WBO champion… from Derby…’ That’s what it is all about for me. I’m moving into the same circles as the big boys now.”
Indeed, Mash and Parker have spent the past six years plotting a route to the top despite a nightmare night when the fighter dislocated his left shoulder as well as picking up tears to his rotator cuff and subscapularis when fighting for the vacant British title against Darryll Williams in 2018. The injuries came in round two yet Parker went on to win a split decision.
Parker’s ailments were so severe they threatened to derail the newly minted champion’s career. However, the team have been through thick and thin together so they all know a thing or two about remaining patient and will continue to do so until they nail down their date with destiny.
“I was working with Black Country Boxing, people like Errol Johnson, Paul Mann and Martin Gethin about six-years ago and they spoke highly of me about how hard I work for my fighters,” said Marsh when asked how they hooked up. “Zach signed me on to do a job. Me, [Parker’s trainer] Errol and Paul had a plan, we also had a kid who could fight like hell.”
Parker’s frustrations over the injury and inactivity were shared by Marsh as well as Parker’s family, who wanted the best for their son. Marsh told BN that it was the hardest part of their time together. However, and unlike many fighting families, the Parkers placed their trust in the team through thick, fallow, and thin days.
“His mum and dad don’t get involved — they leave me to it,” said Marsh. “There was a time in the past when his mum got involved, as she also has a boxing background in the amateurs. I felt under a bit of pressure — and you don’t want to be under pressure from Zach’s mum — but she trusted me and that helped ease the pressure. I’d rather fight Zach than his mother, to be honest with you!”
On reflection, though, Parker is glad that he has spent some time on the road. The support from Derby will always be there for him, what he also wanted was to spread his name across the country and show his skills to as many fans as possible so that when the time comes, he will emerge as boxing’s worst-kept secret. Part and parcel of the deal with Warren was that when he does come home, he will come home with a lot of fanfare and a major belt on the line. It’s been a long time coming, but he thinks it will be worth the wait and it will be an historical moment.
“When I first turned with Neil, I was here, there and everywhere — I was the road warrior,” he said. “Now I’m with Frank, he wants to build things up in Derby for me, but thanks to fighting in different places in the past, I think I’ve got fans all over the place and want to build on that. I’m building things at the football games, taking photos with everyone and I want to be the first really big fighter from Derby and show that I’m here to stay.”
“Yeah, there are temptations and a lot of people who want to jump on the bandwagon,” he said when asked if success brings more attention, a lot of backslapping and people who suddenly want to be in his inner circle. “I don’t answer the phone to many people, I keep my circle small and tight, and that’s what makes it work so far as you don’t get people going behind you talking shit.”
It was during those early days together that Marsh saw the seeds of potential that he believes will blossom and grow as his fighter moves through the levels. He argued that once that first world title comes the rest of them will follow.
“I tested Zach in different scenarios,” said Marsh. “I can’t remember the exact fight, but there was one where he stepped it up even more and I thought: ‘Hang on, we can do something here.’ Zach’s mountain peak is even higher than others because of his talent and what he can do.
“He got that horrific injury in the Williams fight, which showed me how tough he is by how he reacted to it. That is something you cannot instil in someone. Then he beat Murdoch and that was the final sign that told me that this kid could do it. We’d seen glimpses, so we kept nagging at him to nurture his natural talent like a plant.”
“Zach listens,” he explained. “What we’ve got is rare: a kid who can fight, a promoter backing him and a training team who are dedicated to him — we’ve got all we need to do it. Sometimes people don’t get on in a team. We are the opposite as we all do the right thing for Zach.”
The shoulder injury was a huge setback for Parker, yet it also underlined his commitment and ticked a few boxes. Expert help was sought, the services of Len Funk, who performed the surgeries, and former Manchester City Head of Physiotherapy Jamie Murphey were secured. Parker temporarily relocated to Blackpool to be near his physio and spent five days a week there for a few months striving to get back to full fitness. For Marsh, it was a sign of his commitment to the sport.
“The fact he went and lived in Blackpool during that period shows his dedication,” declared Marsh. Having visited Blackpool on a few occasions, this writer can confirm that it’s the last place you would want to spend a week, let alone months. “Plus we knew we had the best help to deal with what was a career-threatening injury.”
For Parker, though, it was a long, hard road back, one that left a few doubts going into his first hard, post-injury sessions, the ones where no matter how good the work has been the doubts hit you as soon as you hit the bags, let alone go back into sparring.
“It was a bad injury, a bad time,” added Parker. “I had surgeries in Blackpool and learned a lot about other things. I’m glad I just pushed through it. At first, you can’t even move around, but we got through it.
“Obviously, in that first spar you don’t want to throw as many punches. Then you get going, get firing on all cylinders and get yourself into the right place. I just had to get through it until it became better than ever. It is hard. You have to do it right. If you go too fast, you can make it worse, so I just listened to Jamie. I feel as strong as ever. In the past, I was just using my natural skill. Then I learned more and more about physio, dieting, strength, and conditioning and what to add to my game.”
One thing Parker didn’t have to learn the hard way was how to box. His father, Darren, fought Chris Eubank, his mother is heavily involved in the sport, and it is embedded into his genetic makeup. However, as mentioned above, his family stepped back when he turned pro, offering advice when required but entrusting his development to a wider team.
“My whole family boxed — it is reared into me,” he said. “My dad boxed Eubank. My brother, Duane, had 14 fights, won 13 by stoppage, and my brother Lee also boxed so when I was young, they’d beat me up to toughen me up for the boxing scene. Then as I got older, I’d spar my siblings, but I’d got better and didn’t want to beat anyone up too much!”
“Nah,” he added with a laugh if the sparring got out of hand. “We did a bit, but my dad wouldn’t really allow too much of it. We are a family of boxers. As an amateur, my dad was my trainer. We won five national titles, but when I turned professional, he put his faith in Errol and Paul. Dad didn’t get involved that much yet it is good to get his insights as he watches boxing all the time.
“To be fair, I’m the youngest so I just heard stories about my dad and his career, but he wants me to make my own story and he doesn’t want to tell me stories about him. He still talks about boxing, though, so I get that knowledge from him about all the knockouts he had in the amateurs from body shots — they called him ‘The Body Snatcher’. It is good that he sits back. I can’t fault my mum and dad, they just let the team get on with it.
“I also can’t thank my mum enough because she is the chef, she washes my clothes and does everything for me — I just eat, train, chill and train. I’m the youngest so I’m the baby, my mum looks after me well and my family call me ‘The Golden Boy’. My aim is to make the money I need to set us all up for life. I just focus on the world title, whichever lad is put in front of me, so I can get for it and focus long-term on the big ones.”
“I just want a world title for this kid,” added Marsh. “It will be a life-changing moment for him. I’ve been involved in world and interim title fights, and it is just a fight as a ring is a ring. The pressure isn’t on me, I manage the kid and Zach handles any pressure that comes. He listens as well, which always helps.”
Another British titlist at 168lbs would add to a long list that includes Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Joe Calzaghe, Carl Froch, James DeGale and George Groves. Ultimately, Parker wants people to mention him alongside those names, and there is one in particular that he would have loved to have tested himself against.
“We have a history of good Super middleweights over here recently: Groves, DeGale, Froch and Calzaghe — I want to get on that list,” he said. “Froch and Calzaghe are the ones for me because you watch them growing up and rated both of them. Imagine me against Carl Froch? Nottingham against Derby. It’d would be a thing to have my name up with them in the future.”
“Boo Boo” says “No, no.”
“I KNEW he’d pull out,” said Parker when speaking exclusively to BN about Andrade turning down the second fight to pursue other options. “He wanted a bigger purse, but he isn’t getting the big fights. I’d take on John Ryder in a heartbeat if we can all do it, he’d actually take the fight and it would be an all-British affair. It makes sense.
“Andrade would have got more money the first time for coming to Derby. Ryder would be a better opponent because he doesn’t run from a challenge. It is frustrating. Andrade’s got a resume, a two-weight world-champion who is undefeated and has had some big fights, but he calls himself ‘The Bogeyman’ and then pulls out whenever a tough fight comes up. It wasn’t going to happen. Second time I knew it wouldn’t happen — he just doesn’t want to come over here. He can’t sell tickets and that’s why everyone gets rid of him.”
“It’s done with him now,” added Parker when asked if he’d defend against Andrade should he win the WBO title. “He’s turning down hard fights, so why should he just be gifted one for a world title when the times comes again?”