By Liam Napier
Joseph Parker's fight with Francois Botha has been placed in jeopardy, with the Kiwi heavyweight set to step into the ring just weeks before the biggest test of his professional career.
Details are yet to be finalised, but Sunday News understands Parker, who is in the middle of a training camp with Kevin Barry in Las Vegas, will take on a yet-to-be-confirmed opponent in Burbank, California, on May 16 in what is expected to be an eight-round fight.
Parker is scheduled to go toe-to-toe with Botha on June 13 and Duco Events promoter Dean Lonergan acknowledged there were major risks taking blows under a month before the 21-year-old takes on the South African veteran in Auckland.
"There are always risks," Lonergan said. "You're in the heavyweight division. If someone lands a punch right on the chin there's a chance you'll go down.
"We think the benefits outweigh the risks."
Lonergan admitted if Parker suffered an unlikely knockout the Botha fight may not go ahead.
"We'd have to reassess it after that," he said. "It is a possibility but it's not something that enters our mind simply because we have total faith in Joseph and Kevin."
By mid-May, Parker will have spent a month in Vegas training three times a day - living, eating and breathing boxing.
"We're in the middle of tracking down an opponent. We want someone who can mimic Botha. They've got to be durable, tough and come forward," Lonergan said.
"We need to find out if what Joseph is learning with Kevin is being taken on board. If Joseph can't implement what's required in the first fight then it's hard to think he'll pick up the strategy against Botha."
While in California, Lonergan and business partner David Higgins will also attempt to convince undefeated Cuban Luis Ortiz to renege on his request for $200,000 to fight David Tua.
Last week Sunday News revealed Miami-based Ortiz had agreed to fight Tua only to demand his purse was doubled.
The Tua-Ortiz match-up is now in the balance, with Lonergan indicating Duco was not willing to pay $200,000.
"His trainer, manager and promoter all want the fight to happen - it's just a case of us sitting down and trying to get it over the line."