Joseph Parker needs an early night against Junior Fa to start his journey back towards Joshua and Fury
The Kiwi’s manager has talked up his man’s chances of becoming the WBO mandatory challenger again but he has an old score to settle first
Welcome to the Kiwi Cracker, or maybe the Auckland Barnburner. Apologies. You can only work with what’s in front of you, which is pretty much how Joseph Parker is viewing his return to the ring after an absence of 12 months.
Parker’s old amateur rival from South Auckland, Junior Fa, has been idle even longer having not fought since 2019, nevertheless this is a point of departure for the former WBO champion seeking a return to the heavyweight division’s top table.
Whilst it might lack the intensity of a world title fight, ancient, neighbourhood rivalries have given this the flavour of a local Thrilla in Manila or Rumble in the Jungle. We have even had a rumpus over the judging panel with Fa’s team objecting to scorers sourced from Christchurch, hometown of Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry.
The fact that he has not lived in the city for three decades did not wash with Fa’s squad, who saw the possibility of partial judging. Fa’s manager, Mark Keddell, said: “The Barry family are a very successful Christchurch family, and we just thought there was a couple of Auckland boys fighting, so we should have Auckland judges. We felt pretty strongly about that.”
To which Barry responded: “It’s quite flattering what they are saying about my influence in Christchurch. I left Christchurch in 1992. I haven’t lived in Christchurch or New Zealand for nearly three decades.”
Parker’s two defeats came against British opponents in successive fights three years ago, first to Anthony Joshua and then to Dillian Whyte. Parker won the vacant WBO crown in 2016 with a points win over Andy Ruiz. He also has victories over middling operators Carlos Takam and Hughie Fury.
This is all about putting on a show to re-enter boxing’s power circle, with Parker’s manager David Higgins this week talking up the prospect of his man fighting Joe Joyce or Oleksandr Usyk on his way to becoming the WBO mandatory challenger again with hopes of eventually facing the winner of Joshua vs Tyson Fury.
A fight against Dereck Chisora was lost to Covid and could be resurrected. Though 21 of Parker’s 27 wins have come by knockout, he has struggled to overpower higher calibre opponents.
Fa is unbeaten and shares a 2-2 amateur record against Parker, but is untested in boxing’s upper atmosphere with a knockout ratio of 10/19 that ought not to trouble a former world champion. Parker’s team have wandered through the week sporting a “been there, done that” countenance, evidenced by the response to the judging dispute.
Higgins said: “Dealing with Mark Keddell has been trickier than dealing with Eddie Hearn or Bob Arum, because it’s his big moment to shine. He’s the smartest man in the room. We’re actually a lot more relaxed about it, because when Junior is lying on the ground, it doesn’t matter who the judges are.”
Parker would appear to agree. “I feel like I’m in a good place to put in a great performance. It’s no secret going into a fight a fighter wants a knockout. The plan is to knock him out. I want to get him early. There are no excuses. I have the power to knock him out. I want to knock his head off and he wants to do the same.”
Relations between the two are cordial, friendly even. Were they not facing off on Saturday they might be sharing a beer round the barbie. Fa knows he is up against it, and he’s okay with that. “He’s a nice fella. It’s all business at the end of the day. I’m training to take his head off, he’s training to take my head off. It’s all good.”