By Thomas Lyons
After the climactic events of Wembley on April 29, of last year, in front of 90,000 attendees for arguably the biggest fight in heavyweight boxing history between the veteran Vladimir Klitschko, who dominated the top-tier division for just over a decade, and the young lion in Anthony Joshua, who captured Olympic gold at the London 2012 games as an established pedigree as a GB amateur, Joshua has a completely different challenge in unbeaten New-Zealander Joseph Parker (24-0, 18KOS), a record that cannot be underestimated, especially at the elite level of the sport.
With negotiations between the two camps taking a reasonable amount of time, numerous meeting between the promoters taking place in the capital, and a disagreement in the deserved splits of the purse reaching an agreement, an announcement for this fight took place on Sunday (14th). The first unification between two unbeaten champions on British soil, a spectacle is expected to take place at Cardiff’s principality stadium on March 31. British boxing has certainly got off to a flying start and with promoter Eddie Hearn announcing a fight of the year contender in Joshua-Parker, boxing fans worldwide will be glued to their screens, across the pond in New Zealand, in the States as well as the British audience (casual and hardcore boxing fans)
As well as Parker’s WBO strap in the prize pot for this fight, Joshua will look to unify the titles with his WBA, IBF and IBO belts in Cardiff. Parker comes into the fight off the back of a somewhat below-par performance against another Brit in Hughie Fury, who caused Parker problems throughout the bout but was rewarded a unanimous decision in Manchester. Parker has illustrated on occasions that he possesses power, that any heavyweight is capable of, but also the boxing IQ and ring intelligence that so few have developed in the pro ranks. Joshua is coming into the fight off the back of eleven tough rounds with Frenchmen, Carlos Takam, who took the fight on one week notice, and to the disappointment of AJ’s camp including trainer Rob McCracken, who expected Kubrat Pulev to take the challenge in October instead. Takam, to the surprise of the boxing fraternity, unsettled AJ at points in the fight and the tear up between the two lasted a lot longer than expected. Although the result of the fight was heading convincingly in Joshua’s favour, there still remains chinks in the AJ armour that Parker will be looking to exploit. Heated words have been exchanged from Parker’s team, using leaked footage of Joshua being dropped as amateur multiple time in a recent press conference. Whether this was a PR stunt from Parker’s promoter, David Higgins in order to boost the claim for Parker’s challenge and the profile of this unification fight, the rumours were branded “fake-news” by Joshua himself at Monday’s press conference in London. McCracken told the media that “I’ve been with AJ at all these sparring sessions, these rumours are untrue”, “This was seven/eight years ago, the Pricey story around the same time when Anthony was a novice”. Higgins replied saying how they believe Parker is “mentally stronger” than his rival Joshua and that he has “a better chin, better footwork and faster hands” that Parker spoke about himself.
Apart from Fury, Parker has not really mixed at the very elite level, but equally, Joshua is yet to be tested in some departments, which is making the fight with Parker more intriguing. Parker comes to the UK for the second time to fight and has experienced what the atmosphere is like of British fight fans but not to extent of 80,000 people on March 31, which Hearn spoke to Sky Sports News about Parker being “mentally strong” and how he will handle the occasion when it comes around. Joshua definitely appeared rattled by the comment by their team but denied any emotional engagement with Parker. “I’d fight him in the carpark for free,” said Joshua, whose ambition to unify the belts has always been present, with his unblemished record on the line too.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this unification fight will be one to watch and could well possibly live up to the outside hype and expectation it has been given. A combination of 38 KOs between the two challengers for the unified heavyweight championship of the world, a step closer to being the undisputed champion, with only one legitimate heavyweight belt to collect, with WBC champion Deontay Wilder expected to defend his title against challenger, Luis Ortiz.
Live on Sky Sports Box Office