By Duncan Johnstone
Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker is being courted by one of the biggest names in world boxing to promote his future fights in the United States.
Oscar De La Hoya, the 10-time world champion and man behind Golden Boy Promotions, has been in contact with Parker, sounding out his intentions.
Parker's Kiwi handlers, Duco Events bosses Dean Lonergan and David Higgins, will use next month's fight in America to meet with Golden Boy Promotions' senior vice-president Eric Gomez.
Parker will fight little-known American Keith Thompson at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on August 9 over six rounds.
Clearly if he can continue to make rapid progress to his exciting beginnings in the professional ranks, bigger things are on the horizon for the South Aucklander, 22, who this week rose to No 15 on the respected WBO rankings.
De La Hoya's company is a major player. It is co-promoting September's welterweight title rematch between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas.
Unbeaten Mayweather is the biggest name in the game, just as De Hoya himself once was before moving into the promotions field in 2002.
"Oscar texted Joe last week asking who his US promoter was," Lonergan explained.
"You've got to realise that Joe spends a lot of time in Las Vegas these days and the boxing world is a small place there, especially when you are sparring with the likes of [WBC champion] Bermane Stiverne.
"It's not surprising to us but it's a great opportunity that we are going to follow up."
Lonergan and Higgins, unashamedly ambitious for Parker and their own company, plan to make good use of their time in the United States.
Parkers fight there is promoted by long-time player Main Events and they will sit down with its boss, Kathy Duva, to ascertain her company's long-term interest in the fast-handed Kiwi.
They are also hoping to touch base with another big name promoter, Dan Goossen.
It's a volatile time in American boxing promotions with lawsuits flying faster than bad left hooks and Duco will need to be cautious and wise.
There's also the threat of having Parker snatched away from them.
"I guess that threat exists," Lonergan admitted. "But we have a six-year contract with Joe and a fantastic relationship. We don't see that changing but we do see this as very exciting . . . it's more about working with other promoters."
As for Parker's next assignment that comes on the undercard to heavyweight title contender Vyacheslav's clash with Derric Rossy, Duco see Thompson as a worthy opponent.
American Thompson is another young fighter looking to make an impression, he has won seven fights including avenging one of his two losses.
He is a regular sparring partner to top American prospect, the unbeaten Deontay Wilder.
But with a fight already set up against Sherman Williams in Auckland on September 16 and the American bout being beamed to a live audience via network giant NBC, it's hard to imagine Thompson being anything other than hand-picked for defeat by Parker - especially with the De La Hoya and Duva eyeing proceedings.
The six-round distance has been designed to accommodate Parker's busy schedule as he has just come off a seventh round knockout of American Brian Minto and is looking at three fights in four months.
"But I think it's also about producing a different performance," Lonergan said.
"Trainer Kevin Barry wants more volume of punches to be thrown in this fight. We were impressed with Joseph's discipline in beating Minto.
"However, one of the things that struck him when he was on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko was the accuracy the world champion had considering the number of punches he threw. That's the challenge for Joe now."
Fellow Kiwi Robbie Berridge, who also fights on the Pennsylvania card, has seen his WBO ranking lift a place to No 9.
Impressive Australian welterweight Jeff Horn, who Duco are courting, is up to No 14 in the WBO rankings. Tags: Joseph Parker