By Liam Napier
Sonny, Joseph Parker is coming for you.
In a bid to restore credibility to the two New Zealand heavyweight belts and unify them, Parker is plotting to challenge Sonny Bill Williams this year.
The Sunday Star-Times understands Parker has secured a fight with Afa Tatupu on the David Tua v Alexander Ustinov undercard on August 31 in Hamilton.
Tatupu holds the New Zealand National Boxing Federation title vacated by American-Kiwi Chauncy Welliver, while rugby and league superstar Williams is the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association champion. Parker respects Williams' achievements and athletic abilities, but boxing is boxing. He wants both Kiwi titles. A victory over the 33-year-old Tatupu would put significant pressure on Williams to step up for his first title defence.
Parker v Williams would be a lucrative pay-per-view match-up - likely to generate huge interest in Australia and New Zealand.
"He [Tatupu] currently holds the other New Zealand title. There's only two major titles in New Zealand. He's got one and Sonny Bill has one," Parker told the Star-Times from his Las Vegas training base last week.
"If everything goes well and we get the win, then we could look at Sonny. If we do get a fight, I will definitely take it, but at this stage I'm not sure if he's [Williams] keen."
Comparing their respective results against South African veteran Francois Botha paints a revealing picture. Both have undefeated records after six fights, though Williams' "victory" over Botha was tainted by controversy. Parker's advantage comes from his extensive amateur experience. Williams originally learnt his craft from YouTube footage.
"We believe Sonny's camp will come up with reasons why he's got to drop the belt," Duco promoter David Higgins said. "We'd be over the moon if Sonny was willing to step up but we don't believe he'd be willing to back himself to beat Joseph Parker. Joseph is determined to restore credibility to the New Zealand titles. Sonny will have to defend his title to prove he is a legitimate champion."
Selecting Tatupu (9-4) as Parker's next opponent is a smart move on several fronts. Talk of jumping in the ring with Shane Cameron was premature.
Tatupu is a powerful puncher who comes forward but is thought to lack the defensive capabilities needed to handle Parker's lethal hand speed and increasing skills.
In the leadup to his professional debut last year, Parker used Tatupu as a sparring partner. It is understood the pair had some serious exchanges.
"I used to do a lot of sparring with Afa back in the day," Parker said. "He is a powerful guy. He's got the title and he worked hard for it. There are a few weaknesses we've seen but you never know what he's going to bring on the day. He's got a lot of time to prepare. He might fix up his mistakes.
"We'll definitely start looking at him because you have to adjust your style and techniques towards that."
Since returning to Vegas to work under Kevin Barry's tutelage, Parker has resumed a relentless six-day training regime that starts with a run at 5am and includes two further daily sessions. He has also been exposed to quality sparring partners.
After working with undefeated Mexican Andy Ruiz in the buildup to the Botha fight, Parker has since traded blows with Belarusian former WBO heavyweight champion Siarhei Liakhovich (25-5).
"I wouldn't have access to these sorts of guys back in New Zealand," he said. "It's great to be sparring guys that have a lot of experience. I'm learning a lot. Every time I spar them I improve a lot."