By Duncan Johnstone
Joseph Parker's next opponent is Brian Minto, the veteran American who ended the career of fellow Kiwi heavyweight Shane Cameron.
The fight will be in Auckland on July 5, the next of three fights that Parker's promoters Duco Events have planned for the 22-year-old this year.
Duco Events moved quickly to announce the Minto bout, a day after Parker worked hard for a seventh-round TKO of Brazilian Marcelo Nascimento in Oberhausen, Germany.
Originally, it wanted to match Parker against Cameron but that all changed last December when Minto stunned Cameron with a seventh-round knockout to win the vacant WBO Oriental title in Auckland.
Minto will put that belt on the line and Parker will put up the WBA Pan-Asia belt he won on Sunday.
It's a fight that has the potential to keep Parker climbing the rankings. He is 15th on the WBA list now and Minto is 12th with the WBO.
But the fight comes with risks, given Minto's uncompromising in-your-face style style approach that is based around a front-foot approach and questionable use of the head and elbows.
Parker's handlers acknowledge the risks but argue Minto's style presents him as a constant target for their hard-hitting fighter.
''Brian Minto is a great challenge for Joseph Parker, he's a 13-year pro. I think we all saw last year in the Shane Cameron fight just what Minto brings to the table,'' Parker's trainer Kevin Barry who, ironically, was Minto's cornerman against Cameron but will stay faithful to Parker for this important date.
''Last year we really wanted Cameron for Joseph and, when Minto took that dream away, I said to [promoter] Dean Lonergan, 'we've kind of stuffed this up for ourselves now, we need to do the next best thing and we need to get Minto for Joe'.''
Lonergan labelled Minto ''a dirty bastard'' and claimed Minto was one of the dirtiest fighters he had seen.
''I've got no doubts he's going to come with head butts and elbows in the fight.
''He caught Shane flush with the best shot of the night with an elbow.
"He's a dirty bastard. He'll claim innocence but he is,'' Lonergan said.
Barry was more polite, though aware of the risks that came with the 39-year-old who has 39 wins (25 KOs) from 46 fights.
''They don't call him The Beast for nothing. He fights like a beast and he's going to be in Joseph's face and Joe's going to have to beat him down. It's a fight that we are going to have to be in really good shape for. It's a fight we are not going to be able to have problems with cuts in. It's a fight where I definitely don't want Brian Minto getting close to Joseph Parker. We'll have to use Joe's height and reach advantage."
Parker welcomed the challenge.
''We have a lot of practice and sparring with guys back in Vegas who actually come forward and put the pressure on and Minto does put the pressure on,'' Parker said, adding he didn't fear any dirty questionable tactics.
''We'll have to talk to the ref and stuff before the fight and make sure he doesn't use his elbows and his head.''
Parker said that, after waiting six months for his last fight, he was eager to pick up the pace and get active in the ring.
''Now that we've shook off the ring rust, going in to this fight we'll have a bit more confidence that we are keeping me active, we've just got to keep training hard once we get back to camp.
''I want to keep busy and keeping busy is good. I did well in sparring but nothing compares to a fight.''
He wasn't concerned at the growing talk that his promoters were pushing him too hard, too quickly.
''It's a team decision - we always sit down and talk about the fights that we have. I don't think they're pushing me too fast. We are taking the right steps.''
Lonergan defended his approach: ''We said right at the start 'we're not going to line up patsies'. We want to test Joe every time and learn from the mistakes. We want him to be in line for the world title at the end of next year. Yes, we have Joe on a fast track but we think he can handle it.''
Parker confirmed he had burst his left ear drum when caught flush by a right hook in Germany. But he had been cleared to fly.
He would return to Auckland for two weeks with his family and would then head to Las Vegas to begin preparations to fight Minto.