14 Dec 2018

Last chance to dance for Joseph Parker?

12:53 pm on 14 December 2018

Opinion - There's been a lot of famous trilogies over the years, both sporting and otherwise. Just how Joseph Parker's three heavyweight title fights will get remembered will probably take a bit longer than the immediate aftermath of Saturday night's bout against Alexander Flores, though, writes Jamie Wall.

New Zealand heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker (R) faces off against Alexander Flores ahead of their 2018 fight.


It'll be Parker's third time in the ring this year, and a chance to pick up his first win of 2018. So far he's found himself on the wrong end of two unanimous decisions, firstly to Anthony Joshua and then to Dillian Whyte and unlike the recent Deontay Wilder/Tyson Fury draw, there was no complaints at all about the way the judges handled the two results.

There's two schools of thoughts on the way Parker's team handled their foray into the currently lucrative UK market. The first is that it was a wasted opportunity, that Parker didn't show enough aggression against the phenomenal Joshua and the ambitious Whyte. A win in Cardiff could have caused mayhem in the heavyweight division, setting up either an even bigger rematch with Joshua or collision course with Wilder.

His train failed to get back on the tracks in London, where a fired-up Whyte sent himself on a mission to avenge his own loss to Joshua by going through Parker and back into the realm of contenders for the heavyweight division.

Or, you could look at it that Parker has reached the heights and cashed in by striking a deal with Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom promotions business when the time was right. A couple of multi-million dollar paydays isn't anything to be sniffed at, he's now set for life and can enjoy recognition and fame in both the boxing world and around New Zealand.

Whichever way you look at it, there is no denying that out of the three fights this year for Parker, this upcoming one will be held in the least impressive venue.

Christchurch's Horncastle Arena probably doesn't belong in the same sentence as Cardiff's Principality Stadium or London's O2 Arena, but here we are. Joshua's pulling power meant that 80,000 went to see that fight, while an impressive 20,000 went to the indoor venue for the Whyte bout.

It'll be Parker's second trip to Horncastle, after he saw off the challenge of former rugby league player Solomon Haumono two years ago. You could probably put that down as the last 'gimme' fight of his career, considering after that his handlers targeted a tilt at a heavyweight belt. That came later in 2016 when he controversially defeated Andy Ruiz for the WBO title, setting up the events of this year on the big stages in the UK.

The volume in the arena probably won't match that of Joshua's other fights this year; as of Thursday night you could still buy blocks of up to a dozen tickets in the stands. It is a long way from the glitz and borderline insanity of the current heavyweight division, currently waiting in vain for the green light on a blockbuster fight between the clean cut Joshua and the violent, entertaining, and aptly named Wilder.

So what now? Alexander 'The Great' Flores has rarely fought outside of his native California, and brings with him a 17-1 record and some standard trash talk. Parker goes in as an almost unbackable favourite with the TAB, which gives the clearest indication of the way the result will go.

But just how brutal and swift the predicted victory will be for Parker will be the biggest indication of where his career is headed next. If he can come out firing, knock Flores out and then follow it up with a bold statement about beginning the journey back to relevance, then we'll watch with interest over the next few years.

However, if it's just a plodfest that ends with an uninspiring points win, then it's likely going to be an inquest into a career that has clearly flatlined - and may never be resuscitated.

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