By: Eric Lunger
WBO Heavyweight champion of the World Joseph Parker (23-0, 18 KOs) of New Zealand steps onto the biggest stage of his career this Saturday in Manchester, England, as he faces highly skilled, but relatively untested, Hughie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs). Parker, 25, won the vacant WBO belt in December of last year against Andy Ruiz, Jr., and defended it this May against late replacement Razvan Cojanu (who stepped in for an injured Hughie Fury). This will be Parker’s first fight in the UK, and an emphatic result would put him in the mix to challenge Anthony Joshua. The Parker team understands what’s at stake. Veteran trainer Kevin Barry, who has brought Joseph from prospect to champion, spoke to boxinginsider.com at the opening of Parker’s camp, declaring “this fight in the UK is something we have waited for, for a long time… and I don’t want this to be a twelve-round fight. Joseph Parker is going to really let his hands go in this one!”
Parker has tremendous hand speed for a heavyweight and explosive power. While not know as a defensive specialist, he neutralized a persistent pressure attack from Andy Ruiz. Parker is adept at fighting taller men (Fury is 6’ 6,” two inches taller that Parker), and is well trained to get inside and fight from a middle distance, nullifying the long reach of a taller opponent. But Parker also possesses a fine jab, which he can use both to the head and the body. Early in his career, he used a double jab, a weapon he wants to utilize against Fury. Parker told me in July: “I used the double jab a lot in my early fights and it’s something that has fallen off a bit, but I feel now it is very important to bring it back.”
Hughie Fury is a tricky fighter, who, much like his cousin Tyson, uses his long body to create angles, slip punches, and counter. Trained by his father Peter, Hughie will bring a skill set that Parker has not faced before. Kevin Barry is not taking him lightly: “Hughie is a world amateur underage champion, and he’s undefeated. He comes out of a very good boxing family, and he’s well coached. I have no doubt that on September 23 we will get the best Hughie Fury there is.”
This is Fury’s first crack at a title, and no doubt the Manchester fans will be in full throat backing their man. The hostile atmosphere and Fury’s skill will be a genuine test for Joseph Parker as he seeks to stake his claim to Heavyweight supremacy outside of his native New Zealand.