By Jake Donovan
It hasn’t been the kindest of years to Joseph Parker, but he will get to end 2018 on a high note—with a long overdue New Zealand homecoming.
The former heavyweight titlist will return to his homeland for his first home fight since May ’17, as promoter Duco Events confirmed his next ring appearance on December 15 at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch, New Zealand.
An opponent has yet to be named for the occasion, but for the moment remains secondary to regaining some of the swagger lost in recent months.
“Whoever they put in front of me I need to get the job done – and get it done well,” Parker said during a confirming press conference on Wednesday. “Having experienced what it is like to reach the pinnacle of the sport, and then come back down again after a couple of tough defeats, I’m more motivated than ever to get back on top.”
Parker (24-2, 18KOs) began the year as a heavyweight titlist, having won a 12-round win over then-unbeaten Andy Ruiz in their Dec. ’16 vacant title fight. Two successful defenses followed: a 12-round win over Razvan Cojanu in May ’17, his last fight in New Zealand; and a road win over Hughie Fury last September in Manchester, England.
The aforementioned bout was the first of three in the United Kingdom, but his last both as a titlist or undefeated boxer. Parker fell well short in a 12-round points loss to Anthony Joshua in their high-profile title unification clash this past March, and again in a disappointing defeat to Dillian Whyte in their title elimination clash in July.
“After a five-year undefeated run that took Joseph all the way to winning the WBO World Title we now find ourselves in very unusual territory – coming off back-to-back losses,” noted Kevin Barry, Parker’s longtime trainer. “Joe has never been in this position before and needs a top performance.”
There’s hardly any shame in suffering defeats to the likes of Joshua and Whyte, but the latter has left a bitter taste in his mouth. Parker struggled early, even hitting the deck twice before rallying in the championship rounds.
It proved too little, too late, even with Whyte being floored and forced to spend the rest of the fight in survival mode.
“I could have and should have won that fight, but that’s boxing,” Parker admits. “It’s now time to get back to work. I can’t wait to fight again in Christchurch. I’ve got really good memories from my last time there (a fourth round KO of Solomon Haumono in July 2016). It’s a great homecoming for me.”
The location was also a no-brainer for his handlers, who rejected offers from other hosts in the decision to return home.
“We had plenty of options for Joseph’s return fight after a couple of tough but highly credible losses,” stated David Higgins, director of operations for Duco Events. “But Christchurch was a clear front runner from very early on.
“We’ve got great partners in the city, such as ChristchurchNZ, Christchurch Airport and Christchurch Casino. It’s thanks to their unwavering support of Joseph that we’re able to bring what will be a fantastic event to the city.”
With the right performance, it will also provide the first step towards another title run for Parker. At the very least, it’s his perfect excuse to head home for the holidays.