According to promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, Joseph Parker represents a big threat to Anthony Joshua’s seemingly unstoppable rise to the status of undisputed champion of boxing’s most glamorous division.
The 26-year-old New Zealander has never been knocked to the canvas in a 24-fight professional career and, like his opponent, is unbeaten.
Then there’s the revelation, made last week, that Parker has been fighting for the past two years with a debilitating elbow injury that prevented him from executing his jab in three title fights.
After two surgeries late last year, he is fully fit and likely to be a different fighter to the one Joshua will have seen in video clips.
And there’s his heritage. A New Zealander of Samoan descent, Parker first began thumping a punch bag aged 4 under the gaze of father Dempsey — named after Jack Dempsey, the American heavyweight champion from 1919-26 — and emerged from an impressive amateur career with fast hands, a warrior spirit and, now, the WBO belt.
Joshua — the WBA, IBO and IBF titleholder with a 20-0 record (20 KOs) — has been the epitome of cool, to the point of arrogance, some say, over the last few weeks but he knows he is in for a real fight.
So does his promoter, who has one eye on an even bigger bout — against WBC champion Deontay Wilder — later this year.
“That’s the biggest fight in world boxing,” Eddie Hearn said of Joshua-Wilder. “But I honestly see this fight a tougher fight than Wilder. Not necessarily more dangerous but just a tougher all-round fight, technically. I’m nervous for the fight and I know AJ’s mind is completely on Joseph Parker.”
The defining fight for Joshua so far was the epic victory over former champion Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium in April last year. He was already a huge name at home but that win grabbed the attention of the world — and ended Klitschko’s career.