The style matchup in store for this weekend helped Zach Parker eventually get over an otherwise lost year.
An all-British super middleweight clash is in store for Parker, who faces former title challenger John Ryder in an interim WBO title fight this Saturday at The O2 in London. The bout will end a 55-week inactive period for Parker, who has spent much of 2022 watching plans collapse for two separate attempts at securing a fight with former two-division titlist Demetrius Andrade.
The two were on course to meet May 21 in Parker’s hometown of Derby, England. The event was canceled when Andrade (31-0, 19KOs) suffered a shoulder injury requiring surgery, with the fight never making its way back to the schedule.
“This year has been a bit frustrating, but I’ve tried to remain positive, knowing that an opportunity like this would come,” Parker told BoxingScene.com. “That was a devastating blow, though. We sold over 10,000 tickets for that fight. When you’re at that top level, you just have to remain patient and ready. You never know what’s around the corner. We were patient and this fight came along.
“It would’ve been a good fight and a big event. This is going to be a better fight. John Ryder will be right there. I won’t have to go looking for him.”
Parker (22-0, 16KOs) was afforded hometown advantage for the originally scheduled Andrade bout thanks to his Hall of Fame promoter. Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions stepped up to secure the approved interim title bout after outbidding Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing—Andrade’s promoter at the time—with a bid of $1,834,050.
Andrade stood to make $1,192,132.50, sixty-five percent of the winning bid as a reward for his standing as a two-division and then reigning WBO middleweight titlist who was prepared to move up in weight. The winner would have been named the mandatory challenger in waiting for undisputed champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, as are the stakes for this weekend’s BT Sport/ESPN+ headliner.
The same fight was back in play once Andrade abandoned his middleweight title reign in lieu of a mandatory defense versus Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly, who now holds the WBO 160-pound title. Queensberry once again won the rights to the fight, this time for the low price of $305,000 as the lone bidder during a September 22 purse bid hearing. Andrade bailed on the fight, leaving Parker back on the hunt for his first opponent since a fourth-round knockout of Marcus Morrison last November 6 in Birmingham, England.
“I’ve been calling out big fights for years now. With Andrade, he’s unbeaten, he was the WBO champion and ready to move up in weight,” noted Parker of his desire to face Andrade at a time when few others would look in the direction of the unbeaten American. “He obviously thought he’d just go straight to Canelo.
“Fortunately, the WBO backed me. I’ve been the mandatory for a couple of years now. He thought he might get the fight over in America. Frank Warren won the purse bid and got it my backyard. It never happened but I’m glad that John stepped up to the plate when he was offered the fight.”
Ryder (31-5, 17KOs) and Matchroom Boxing were always on board from the moment their number was called, with little time wasted in getting the fight over the line. The 34-year-old southpaw from Islington—less than 30 minutes from The O2—has won three straight since a disputed twelve-round loss to then-unbeaten WBA super middleweight titlist Callum Smith in November 2019.
It will be a meaningful win for whomever prevails this Saturday. Parker still can’t help but think how differently things would have played out had he landed Andrade at any point in the year.
“Andrade was always complaining that nobody wanted to fight him. Well, we were ready,” noted Parker. “His name would have looked great on my resume, but now I’m focused on beating John Ryder. It should be a better fight and a win still gets me to the same destination.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox