icon Updated at 11:43 AM EDT, Thu Mar 22, 2018

Parker Had Two Elbow Surgeries Amid Negotiations for Joshua Fight

By Keith Idec

Joseph Parker’s promoter has confirmed that the WBO heavyweight champion had surgeries on each elbow while he was negotiating a deal for Parker’s heavyweight title unification fight against Anthony Joshua on March 31.

David Higgins, director for Duco Events, told Sky Sports during an interview posted to the network’s website Thursday that the procedures have made Parker healthier than he has been in a long time. The surgeries apparently enabled Parker to train better for the Joshua bout than he had prepared for his two defenses of the WBO title and his championship win against American Andy Ruiz in December 2016.

“We’re pretty transparent,” Higgins told Sky Sports. “We’ve got nothing to hide, especially given it was so damn successful. We were negotiating while Joseph was having surgery. But now seems like an opportune time to end speculation and front foot the issue.”

joshua-parker (18)

Kevin Barry, Parker’s trainer, acknowledged the surgeries were necessary for the New Zealand native to have a legitimate shot at upsetting Joshua a week from Saturday night at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales (Sky Sports Box Office; Showtime). England’s Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs), the IBF/IBO/WBA champ, is regularly listed as an 8-1 favorite over Parker (24-0, 18 KOs).

“I think it was a very important decision for us to make,” Barry said. “We’ve had a lot of pain in the last two years, and I believe it’s really impinged his performances.

“We have been managing pain in nearly every single training camp. And for us now to go into camp for the biggest fight of Joe’s career, and have no pain at all, it was a very good move for us getting the surgery.”

Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, had heard rumors about Parker dealing with injuries that impacted his performances against Ruiz, Hughie Fury and Razvan Cojanu.

The 26-year-old Parker defeated England’s Fury (20-1, 10 KOs) by majority decision September 23, but his controversial victory in that mandatory defense caused Fury to file a protest with the WBO. Four months earlier, Parker out-boxed Romania’s Cojanu (16-3, 9 KOs), a former sparring partner, yet drew criticism for failing to knock out the huge underdog May 6.

“Parker looks much, much lighter,” Hearn said. “There are rumors that Parker has been injured for the past two or three fights, but now is injury-free and looks unbelievable in training.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.