Parker’s brave bout cre­ates new op­tions

Sunday News - - BOX­ING/UFC - DUN­CAN JOHN­STONE

HE doesn’t have his world ti­tle any longer, but New Zealand heavy­weight boxer Joseph Parker is more mar­ketable than ever.

Of course hav­ing three belts would have sent Parker into un­charted ter­ri­tory, but a cir­cum­spect An­thony Joshua now has the box­ing world at his feet, af­ter his in­tel­li­gent win over the big­hearted Kiwi.

Parker won over fans and pun­dits with his per­for­mance in and out of the ring dur­ing a busy cou­ple of weeks in the UK.

His ef­fort in front of 78,000 at Cardiff’s Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium con­vinced a con­sid­er­able num­ber of doubters the 26-year-old does have a role to play in the top tier of the cur­rent heavy­weights.

This per­for­mance in de­feat was more im­pres­sive than his two suc­cess­ful de­fences against Raz­van Co­janu and Hughie Fury, which had the lu­cra­tive Bri­tish mar­ket dis­miss­ing him as any real threat to Joshua, or of be­ing wor­thy of his WBO belt.

But good head move­ment from Parker, some im­pres­sive de­fen­sive work, and glimpses of a short­range at­tack­ing game be­fore ref­eree Giuseppe Quar­tarone stepped in to re­peat­edly halt pro­ceed­ings, brought a hu­man el­e­ment to the seem­ingly in­vin­ci­ble Joshua.

The big Brit had lit­er­ally walked through most of op­po­nents in record­ing 20 suc­ces­sive knock­outs till Parker be­came the first fighter to take him the dis­tance.

That’s a badge of hon­our for Parker and a sil­ver lin­ing to this loss that may ul­ti­mately turn to gold.

In an ideal sce­nario from here, Joshua returns to his knock­out ways and Parker quickly works his way back into ti­tle con­tention through some clever match­mak­ing.

Un­der those cir­cum­stances the ques­tion will al­ways re­main for Joshua: What about that guy you couldn’t knock out? Let’s do it again.

Ul­ti­mately it would be a hugely mar­ketable fight a year or two down the line.

Parker, his pro­moter David Hig­gins and trainer Kevin Barry all em­pha­sised a belief that they will cross paths with Joshua again at some stage.

They got out-manouevred in the ring in Cardiff by a leaner, sharper Joshua and openly ad­mit­ted that.

But they didn’t get over­pow­ered and that is some­thing Joshua can never deny.

He hit Parker flush a few times but the Kiwi’s renowned chin stood the test.

Af­ter the fight Parker em­pha­sised a strong de­sire to bounce back from this first loss in a 25-fight pro­fes­sional ca­reer.

It was pleas­ing to get a mes­sage from him late in the week, af­ter a few days to clear his head and get into the com­forts of his home and fam­ily environment, that read: ‘‘We’ll be back stronger’’.

Parker has mil­lions of rea­sons to take it easy right now, with a bank bal­ance the envy of any Kiwi his age. AP

The tech­ni­cal rather than ex­plo­sive Cardiff fight didn’t de­mand an in­stant re­match, es­pe­cially with Deon­tay Wilder and the Amer­i­can’s fourth belt in the uni­fi­ca­tion equa­tion beck­on­ing for Joshua.

But sce­nar­ios can change in an in­stant in this cur­rent heavy­weight environment and Parker’s per­for­mance should mean he will be part of any se­ri­ous con­ver­sa­tion in terms of ti­tles and con­tenders.

An­thony Joshua, left, was too good for Joseph Parker but the gutsy Kiwi won many new fans.

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