By Liam Napier
Once again, Joseph Parker is stepping out of David Tua's shadow.
The future of New Zealand boxing is set to fight twice more this year. Neither will be on Tua's undercard.
Tua's calf injury and subsequent postponement has altered Parker's plans. Not drastically, though. If anything, his revised strategy will only further fuel appetite to view the 21-year-old's budding talents.
Parker's quest for the New Zealand National Boxing Federation title, held by Afa Tatupu, is expected to be confirmed for October on Tuesday.
"It's always been a goal. In my first year as a pro it's great to get the opportunity to fight for the title," Parker said after arriving home for a week yesterday.
After an intensive seven week training camp with trainer Kevin Barry in Las Vegas, where he's run over 200 miles and sparred 80 rounds with the likes of former WBA and WBO champion Sergei Liakhovich, Parker doesn't want to stall his progress.
Rather than wait for Tua's rescheduled do-or-die match-up with Alexander Ustinov November 16, Parker will take on Tatupu in his first 10 round fight next month. If all goes to plan, he will then fight a seasoned campaigner in late November.
"His second fight will be the big one," Barry said. "I needed something at the end of the year to solidify what we've accomplished this year. We're going to fight an experienced fighter; a guy with good credentials. Someone that Joseph can show everyone how far he's come this year. It will be his big challenge for the year.
We respect what Afa brings but Joseph is just a different beast."
Contesting a New Zealand heavyweight title has been a lifelong dream for Parker. He's in pristine condition and Barry has noticed a significant physiological lift.
"We hope to be fighting for some much bigger things in the future but this is the first time he's fought for a professional belt," Barry said.
"I call it the belt affect. You get a lot more out of fighters. It means so much more to them. He's highly driven for this belt."
Ultimately, Parker's desire is to unify the belts by taking on dual code superstar Sonny Bill Williams, holder of the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association crown. Realistically, though, Barry summed up the likelihood of that fight going ahead.
"They are both 6-0. They both fought [Francios] Botha. One [Parker] destroyed Botha, the other [Williams] was very controversial," Barry said. "I would love to think Sonny would say 'I've challenged myself my whole life, maybe I'll accept that challenge.' It's not a fight for boxing fans; it's a fight for sporting fans. We've got huge respect for Sonny Bill. He's a great footballer, but I don't know if boxing is his game. Personally I don't think ever he wants get in the ring with Joseph Parker. He'd be foolish too. But I'd love him to. Sonny is a sporting icon. We would love to make that fight happen."
Parker's next undercard could feature promising Wellington boxer Joe Blackburn, Christchurch's Reece Papuni and some ccelebrity fighters. Tags: Joseph Parker