By Graeme Barrow
Sometimes good fortune comes in unlikely ways. Disappointing as Joseph Parker was in his WBO title defence against Razvan Cojanu at the weekend, it could possibly result in a financial bonanza. So ordinary was he that aspirant heavyweight contenders are now lining up to get a shot at his title.
And why wouldn’t they? He is clearly perceived as an easier opponent than either WBC champion Deontay Wilder or IBF and WBA champion Anthony Joshua. To gauge how bad Parker looked, Cojanu was not rated in the top 40 by any of the other recognised boxing associations, and Boxrec had him at 86. Cojanu had never fought anyone of any quality or repute, and was knocked out in the 2nd round last year by one Donovan Dennis, who was also relatively inexperienced and had not fought anyone of any quality either. Cojanu was also out of condition, had had little preparation time, and was demonstrably over weight.
Add in the fact that Parker has now fought 36 rounds without even scoring a knockdown, and it is apparent why prospective opponents fancy their chances.
This is not to write Parker off. He is young enough to fire again, and has natural ability. The top four heavyweights in the world are Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Alexander Povetkin. Beneath this elite group are a bunch of about six competent fighters, of whom Parker is one.
The most vocal of those wanting to fight Parker is Liverpudlian Tony Bellew. This would be the best possible fight for Parker, certainly financially, for Bellew has a huge following in Liverpool. Also, Parker would surely beat him. Bellew is a competent late bloomer, who at 34 seems to have reached his peak. But he was thinking about retiring as unbeaten WBC world cruiserweight champion when he saw a golden opportunity and took it. He engaged in a bitter war of words with former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion and fellow Brit David Haye. The resultant fight aroused huge interest and earned Bellew a massive purse. He described it as his fund for retirement and security for his family.
His win, which was generally unexpected, has made him hot property, but ironically, he is now seen just as Parker is seen – as a very beatable opponent who will generate a big purse. Because Bellew was a bit lucky against Haye, who had to fight with one badly injured leg which affected his ability and leverage. And until that win no-one in the world would have thought that Bellew would ever become a credible heavyweight.
Because he isn’t a genuine heavyweight, no matter what he weighs in at, and no matter how he bulks up. He is a natural cruiserweight, the limit for which is 200 pounds (90.7 kg). He came in at 208 pounds for Haye, and if he is the same for a fight with Parker, it will be the lightest any challenger, for any version of the heavyweight title, has weighed in the last decade.
What can prevent the fight happening? Despite Bellew’s claim that he has dozens of options, the only one that could be more attractive financially, and would give him a crack at a title, would be a challenge to the man with the frightening punch – WBC champion Deontay Wilder. However, Wilder has been ordered to give a return to the man he won the title from – Haitian/Canadian Bermaine Stiverne.
The more serious obstacle is that Hughie Fury is still the WBO’s mandatory challenger. If Parker were to agree to fight Bellew, the WBO would have to allow Parker a voluntary defence, provided Fury was given first shot at the winner. Alternatively, Fury could be paid to step aside. This might suit him, for it’s hard to believe he’d want to jump straight in against Parker when he would have, by then, been inactive for more than two years.
The scenario will be played out in the near future, but whatever happens Parker will be defending in either Liverpool or Manchester – two cities almost as keen on boxing as they are on soccer.