Joseph Parker: How heavyweight contender can become world champion again

by 24britishtvJan. 21, 2023, 10 p.m. 13
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When Joseph Parker returns to the ring on Saturday night, the heavyweight is hoping to start a journey that will end with him becoming a two-time world champion.

The New Zealander has been one of the biggest names on the heavyweight scene since announcing himself by beating Andy Ruiz Jr to become world champion in 2016.

Since then, he has been involved in several huge fights, further establishing himself as one of the most watchable athletes in boxing's most glamorous division.
• What time are Eubank Jr and Smith in the ring and how can you watch?

A loss in September last year to Britain's Joe Joyce has halted Parker's advance towards another world title shot, but he makes a much-anticipated comeback at Manchester's AO Arena on Saturday.

Parker faces Jack Massey in one of several highlights on the star-studded undercard for Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Smith, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

Ahead of the bout, we take a look at why Parker should not be counted out of making a return to the very top.

Parker has one of the best resumes among active heavyweight boxers.

He beat one of the division's most dangerous fighters in Andy Ruiz Jr to become world champion in December 2016.

Parker pulled out a majority decision against the fast-handed Californian, who would later stun Anthony Joshua to become champion himself.

Joshua, who would win his titles back in an immediate rematch, is the only other fighter to have beaten Ruiz.

Parker would then hand Hughie Fury the first defeat of his professional career in front of a hostile Manchester crowd, dominating the Brit for another points victory.

After the first two defeats of his career, which we'll come to shortly, Parker rebuilt with a series of impressive knockouts, before embarking on thrilling back-to-back contests with Derek Chisora.

Parker emerged victorious on both occasions, overcoming a shock early knockdown in the first encounter before producing a dominant performance in the rematch.

It's a strange thing to say, but perhaps even greater indicators of Parker's pedigree are the three defeats he has suffered.

He lost his unbeaten record in a unification bout with Anthony Joshua. Fearless as ever, Parker came to Britain to co-star in a huge show at Cardiff's Principality Stadium.

With Joshua perhaps more comfortable at this point on a massive stage, the Londoner out-pointed Parker as both fighters were a little gun-shy in a contest where there was little to pick between them.

Rather than rebuilding slowly, Parker opted to immediately go into another huge fight, against Dillian Whyte at London's O2 Arena.

Perhaps stung by his own cautious approach to the Joshua bout, Parker came out all guns blazing against Whyte but paid the price as he was knocked down in the second round and once more in the ninth.

However, Parker was winning his fair share of the rounds, and remarkably returned to his feet to end on the front foot, knocking Whyte down in the final round and leaving the home fighter hanging on for the final bell.

Whyte won a narrow points victory, but Parker had ended the narrative that he was a boring fighter, and shown incredible courage to very nearly produce a stunning comeback.

Parker would then string together six victories - including the two over Chisora - to return to the brink of a world title shot as he met fellow contender Joe Joyce.

In a barnstorming contest, the Brit furthered the legend of his granite chin as he withstood a barrage of clean shots from Parker, before eventually turning the table to force an 11th round stoppage.

The fact that the performance has established Joyce as the division's prime candidate to next challenge for a world title shows just how formidable a fight Parker put up.

Having read the above, you might assume that after 33 professional fights Parker would be approaching the end of his career, but he only turned 31 earlier this month.

He is younger, significantly in some cases, than the likes of Fury, Usyk, Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Joyce, Ruiz and Whyte.

If one looks at the example of Chisora, who has produced some of his best performances in his mid-to-late thirties, Parker still has plenty of time ahead of him at the top of the sport.

The Auckland-born fighter also can now count on a level of experience that most could only dream of.

In addition to what he has done under the lights, Parker should also continue to improve thanks to the huge change he made in 2021 by joining forces with trainer Andy Lee.

Lee is also part of Tyson Fury's team, which means that Parker has the benefit of training alongside the man most consider to be the best fighter in the division, which can only be a positive.

While Parker has to hold up his end of the bargain by putting together some victories, starting on Saturday night against Massey, another world title challenge isn't necessarily that far off.

Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk look to set to meet in an undisputed fight this year, but that bout may also have positive consequences for the division's other contenders.

It is near-impossible for an undisputed champion to hold onto all the belts while satisfying each of the sport's governing bodies, as we've seen with Britain's Josh Taylor, who has had to give up three of his four titles to pursue a rematch with Jack Catterall.

Regardless of the outcome of a possible Fury-Usyk bout, there is every chance that the titles will fragment afterwards.

In addition, Fury has already retired and returned to the sport, while Usyk has previously hinted that he will have little left to achieve in boxing after this fight - so who knows how long either of them will continue.

It appears highly likely that as early as the second half of 2023, multiple heavyweight titles could be up for grabs, and one big victory for Parker could put him right back in contention.

He has spoken of his desire for rematches with each of the three men who have beaten him, and a win over either Joshua, Joyce or Whyte would undoubtedly propel Parker into the mix.

Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Smith is on Saturday January 21, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book it now if you are a Sky TV subscriber or a Non-Sky TV subscriber.

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