By: Oliver McManus
When the dust settled in Cardiff on Saturday night, the 80,000 fans made their way home and the blood on the canvas was wiped clean, there were two people left in their dressing rooms to ponder over the contrasting future career trajectories they were left with.
Photo Credit: Showtime Boxing/Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker went toe-to-toe at the Principality Stadium for the unified WBC, WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles of the world in a bruising encounter that saw the British fighting pride move to 21 and 0, one step closer to the title of undisputed heavyweight champion.
Joseph Parker, who fell short in the fight , will have several options following his career high pay day and New Zealand’s first ever heavyweight champion has already seen his stock rise past that of, national legend, David Tua.
For Parker and his promoter David Higgins it was always a brave move to take on Anthony Joshua especially after launching such a strong social media campaign pre-agreement to “bait” AJ and Eddie Hearn into taking the fight. The talk was strong, the game plan was calculated but ultimately not enough.
Truth be told Parker hasn’t particularly impressed in any of his world-title fights; he edged out Andy Ruiz to claim the vacant WBO title in a fight that saw neither styles click; against late-replacement Razvan Cojanu he looked lacklustre; and against mandatory challenger Hughie Fury he looked slow and less than 100%.
Despite this Parker has proven before that he has the talent demanded from world level boxing, in particular with his clash with Carlos Takam, and in the showdown at the Principality on the 31st he certainly enhanced his credentials as a technically supreme boxer – catching AJ with some fast, flashy shots between the 5th and 7th round of the fight, saw his reputation only heighten.
There was no shame in this defeat for the Kiwi legend but what does the future have in store?
Well, unfortunately for Duco Promotions, the pathway is distinctly less clear than if their charge had won but here are three potential options;
Joseph Parker won’t be wanting to restart his journey back to the top of heavyweight boxing by fighting some unknown Hungarian plumber so where better to start with “gate-keeper” Dereck Chisora?
Now I use the term gate-keeper loosely because Chisora doesn’t label himself as such but, nonetheless, Chisora remains in the top 20 worldwide and is guaranteed to come to the ring all guns blazing – especially for a fight such as this would be whereby the winner is almost guaranteed another world title shot.
‘Del Boy’, with 28 wins and 8 losses, would also be a good opponent for Parker to be able to demonstrate his technical ability and enable the former Commonwealth champion to work the body of Chisora, up nice and close, something he wasn’t able to do against Anthony Joshua.
With Eddie Hearn saying he’d like to see Joseph Parker back on British shores and Dereck Chisora promoted by the Matchroom Boxing banner, this fight is certainly more than speculation and would be an incredible encounter.
Big Baby Miller would be a far bigger risk to take for the former WBO Champion with the hotly rated American bringing nearly 300lbs of brutality into the ring; HBO’s heavyweight hopeful is ranked 3rd with all of the WBA, IBF and WBO so the fight would make sense, especially if it were to serve as an eliminator of sorts.
Miller has been a regular feature of Eddie Hearn’s ventures over into America and is next in action on the 28th April against, former Deontay Wilder opponent, Johann Duhaupas in Brooklyn. Should he come through that encounter unscathed then you sense the uber-confident American will want to take on Joseph Parker to really stamp his mark on the world scene.
Why would Parker want to take on the 20-0, 18 KO, behemoth of a fighter? Two-fold, really;
Firstly it’s an easy profile-raiser for him over in the U.S.A, having already made his name in the UK and, naturally, his home-countries of New Zealand and Samoa, the next big boxing demographic to crack is America and by beating Miller there can be no clearer attention-raiser;
And secondly, whilst Miller is a more risky opponent due to his sheer size and power, he also blows hot and cold within his fights and has never, particularly, came through entirely convincing – his size has it’s downfalls as well; he’s not particularly fast!
Let’s wait and see on this one but, heck, it would be a dust-up.
This is certainly less realistic than the two previous names but in Junior Fa there is far more history and romance to the match-up, going all the way back to the amateur days when the two New Zealand fighters faced-off on four occasions.
With two wins apiece the crux of the needle came in their last fight when Fa and Parker took place in a final eliminator to decide who would be the Oceanic representative for the London 2012 Olympic Games – Fa won in a tight grudge match by 11-8 but since they turned professional the anticipation has been growing for what, must surely be, an inevitably tasty bout.
Despite the fact Fa is currently, attempting, to make his name in America with Bob Arum and Top Rank, he’s looked incredibly unimpressive in his last two fights Stateside and would, undoubtedly, jump at the chance to cash-in back on home soil should the offer come from Joseph Parker’s team….
…. WATCH THIS SPACE!
For Anthony Joshua the path is far clearer and he has the, odd, pleasure of being at the mercy of the governing bodies which makes his job – and that of Eddie Hearn – a lot easier. Nonetheless here are his three most likely opponents;
SURPRISE! Can you even mention the two remaining heavyweight world champions independently anymore? The hype surrounding this potential fight was so extreme that Wilder seemed to be mentioned more than Parker in the build-up to their unification clash and Wilder is now the only man in the way of Joshua’s ROAD TO UNDISPUTED.
The Bronze Bomber has drawn scorn for saying he “wants a body” on his record but for all the controversy that the WBC Champ courts, there is no denying the incredible power possessed in the hands of the Alabama-fighter.
Having toppled Luis Ortiz in his last fight, despite very tight scorecards, it was Wilder’s windmill-esque power that saw his Cuban succumb in the 10th round – many, beforehand, were suggesting this was a 50-50 fight and, so it proved, with Wilder coming through his toughest test do date.
For all the talking done by the forty fight veteran, Wilder refused to show up in Cardiff for the AJ-Parker mega-fight and has turned down career high money to face Dillian Whyte in the interlude between a potential unification with Joshua; the BIGGEST potential fight but, let’s be honest, is it likely?
Having brutally knocked out, past-it contender, David Price in the 5th round on the undercard in Wales last week, Povetkin managed to retain his WBO and WBA Continental titles, as well as their respective, number one rankings and is likely to be called as the WBA mandatory any time soon.
The Russian has fallen foul of anti-doping rules in the past but since his return to the ring he has continued to highlight what made him, once, the most feared heavyweight in the world. To boot, and if I can say this, it’s noticeable how less “drugged-up” he looks, for want of a better phrase, so whilst suspicion will always loom there is a renewed belief that Povetkin is clean, again.
Fighting on the undercard of Anthony Joshua was a deliberate move by Eddie Hearn to introduce the 38-year-old to the British public ahead of what would be, inevitably, Povetkin’s final tilt at such prestigious titles – indeed it would be the biggest money of his career.
Povetkin packs a nifty punch and as was displayed in full glory against Price, he is capable of turning up the heat AT ANY MOMENT. Weakness were also displayed so whilst this might be AJ’s most exciting fight, you can be sure he’d be feeling mightily confident against the Russian Vityaz.
Pulev and, his promoters, the Sauerland Brothers will have been banging the door down of the Matchroom offices since the Bulgarian withdrew from his scheduled face-off with AJ last year – a fight that was meant to happen on the 28th October AT the Principality Stadium.
The 36 year old would continue in the same vein as Joseph Parker in seeking to test Joshua’s technical capabilities with the chin of Pulev being one that, should, withstand the pressure of AJ and Joshua may want to face Pulev in order to prove he’s not just an one-trick pony.
Having impressed against Dereck Chisora back in May 2016 to claim the European title, he’s since faced Samuel Peter and Kevin Johnson but, frankly, not made any earth-shattering statements against either man.
His rankings remain strong and The Cobra finds himself 5th the WBC, 4th with the WBA and 2nd with the IBF so there’s no questioning his credentials – unlike some who find themselves within the top 15.
Certainly all the talk before his pull-out last year was that Pulev could have been the toughest technical test of Joshua’s ability with his amateur pedigree bleeding into his professional game plan and, to all intent and purposes, replicating his success.
An eliminator between Breazeale and Pulev for a shot at the WBC Heavyweight title has been called so it looks as though his chance at taking on the pride of Britain is all but gone.
You can hope though, can’t you?
For both fighters involved in Saturday’s showdown in Cardiff, there can be no looking back on what could have been different, on what might have been, eyes must firmly be on the future because Joshua and Parker proved themselves as worthy world champions and whilst it was AJ who emerged victorious and with his undefeated record intact, Parker gained more credit over those 36 minutes than he did across all three of his previous world title fights.
For Anthony Joshua, though, the Road to Undisputed just got one step closer…