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Joseph Parker Brings World Title to New Zealand​


Joseph Parker Brings World Title to New Zealand​
By: Eric Lunger

​Joseph Parker (22-0, 18 KO’s) made history last Saturday night, when he became the first heavyweight titlist from New Zealand, outpointing a tough and relentless Andy Ruiz Jr (29-1, 19 KO’s) to capture the vacant WBO belt. But there was more at stake than simply the title: this was Parker’s home fight, the culmination of a long campaign orchestrated by manager Kevin Barry and the Duco Events team. It was Parker’s debut on HBO and his first real introduction to an international audience. And it was Parker’s chance to make an emphatic statement to the rest of the division. Was the failure to score a dramatic stoppage a missed opportunity?

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Maybe. Or, was Parker’s discipline and adherence to his game plan – his resistance to the temptation to trade recklessly in the center of the ring – itself a statement about his maturity and ring generalship?

​Obviously, Parker fans wanted a knockout, and that would have been a more persuasive argument that Joseph is ready to face the top names in the division. But there were two boxers in the ring at the Vector Arena in Auckland, and Andy Ruiz had his own statement to make. Ruiz came forward aggressively from the opening bell, keeping his guard high and trying to engage Parker from a midrange distance. Parker seemed uncomfortable at first, as though he couldn’t quite set himself to the distance that Ruiz was imposing. Parker likes to jab from a low left hand, but that requires his opponent staying at range. As the fight went on, Parker did establish his jab, but he never dominated Ruiz.

​Ruiz also presented a remarkably versatile defense, blocking a great number of punches with his hands and forearms. Forced to adapt, Parker employed a variety of offensive weapons, but he never lost his composure, never went for the risky gamble. Abel Sanchez, who trained Ruiz for this fight (and probably would have wanted a few more months in the gym), said in the lead up to the fight that these type of bouts often come down to the fighter who can impose his will on the other. In my view, neither fighter reached that point. Parker was able to fight offensively off his back foot, and he was able to adjust his jab. But it meant that it was a close and narrowly won bout, as the scores indicated (114-114, 115-113, 115-113).

​So, if Parker was not able to make the kind of statement he and his team might have wanted, the fans did see a competitive and compelling fight. To me it was more authentic than the bout in Manchester, UK, on the same night, where Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KO’s) blasted a listless Eric Molina (25-4, 19 KO’s) in three rounds, in what was essentially a stage-managed lead up to the Joshua vs Klitschko announcement. Presumably, Molina was allowed to dust himself off before Klitschko and Joshua took over the show in the ring. I mean no disrespect to Joshua, and I think the April bout between him and the elder statesman of the heavyweight division will be great for the sport. But let’s not pretend that the Joshua vs. Molina bout was anything more than theatre.

So where does that leave Parker? Well, he has the WBO belt, and that has to mean something. He is a world champion, but at age 24 with only 99 pro rounds, he has plenty of room for growth and development. Should he be in the ring with Deontay Wilder (the WBC champ) in April as part of the Joshua vs. Klitschko undercard? David Higgins of Duco Events has bandied that idea about in the local New Zealand press. I suspect that Joseph’s team will take their time with him, and not let one title belt cloud their judgment. New Zealand has its heavyweight world champion now, but there remain many steps on the journey for Joseph Parker.

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HBO World Championship Boxing Preview: Parker vs. Ruiz, Beltran vs. Menard, Terence Crawford vs. John Molina


HBO World Championship Boxing Preview: Parker vs. Ruiz, Beltran vs. Menard, Terence Crawford vs. John Molina
By: William Holmes

On Saturday night HBO and Top Rank Promotions will team up to televise three bouts from two different locations.

Terence Crawford will defend his WBO and WBC Junior Welterweight titles in the main event of the evening against John Molina live from Omaha, Nebraska. Additionally, lightweight contender Raymundo Beltran will compete against rising prospect Mason Menard as the co-main event of the Nebraska card.
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It was also recently announced that Top Rank will promote Joseph Parker in the United States; and HBO has decided to show the WBO Heavyweight Title Bout between Parker and Ruiz on a same day tape delay from Auckland, New Zealand.

The following is a preview of all three televised bouts.

Joseph Parker (21-0) vs. Andy Ruiz (29-0); WBO Heavyweight Title

Joseph Parker will be fighting in his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand and will be the favorite coming into this bout.

He has already fought four times in 2016, and four of his past five fights have been by TKO/KO. He is twenty four years old and is three years younger than his opponent. He will also have a two inch height advantage and a two inch reach advantage on Ruiz. Ruiz has also been fairly active and has fought three times in 2016.

Joseph Parker has the heavier hands of the two boxers. He has stopped eighteen of his opponents, and four of his past five fights have ended by TKO/KO. Ruiz has stopped nineteen of his opponents, but only two of his past five opponents failed to go the distance.

They both have had moderate success as an amateur. Ruiz was a Mexican National Amateur Champion and Parker medaled in several international competitions as an amateur.

Parker has a slight edge in quality of opposition. He has defeated the likes of Alexander Dimitrenko, Carlos Takam, and Bowie Tupou. Ruiz has defeated the likes of an aged Ray Austin and Siarhei Liakhovich.

Ruiz is a good enough of a boxer to last all twelve rounds, but it will be extremely difficult for him to pull out a victory in Parker’s home country of New Zealand.

Raymundo Beltran (31-7-1) vs. Mason Menard (32-1); Lightweights

The opening bout of the night in Omaha, Nebraska will be between Ray Beltran and Mason Menard in the lightweight division.

Beltran is a former sparring partner of Manny Pacquiao and is a rugged, tough, durable opponent. He’s much better than his record suggests and is known for having excellent stamina.

However, Beltran is thirty five years old and will be seven years older than his opponent, Mason Menard. Beltran will have about a two inch height advantage and a one inch reach advantage.

Menard does have a slight edge in power. He has twenty four knockouts on his record while Beltran only has nineteen.

Menard became well known with some upset victories on national television, including wins over Bahodir Mamadjonov and Eudy Bernardo. But prior to those wins he faced mainly non-descript opponents and most of his bouts were in his home state of Louisiana.

Beltran has defeated the likes of Ivan Najera, Arash Usmanee, Ji-Hoon Kim, and Henry Lundy. He also has several losses, but most of them have come against good opposition. He has lost to the likes of Terence Crawford, Luis Ramos Jr., and Sharif Bogere.

Neither boxer was very active in the past two years. They both fought twice in 2016 and once in 2015. Neither boxer experienced a great deal of success on the international stage as an amateur.

Menard has surprised many with his two latest victories, but Beltran is a big step up in competition for him and isn’t past his prime yet. This should be a fight that Beltran wins through a hard fought decision.

Terence Crawford (29-0) vs. John Molina (29-6); WBO/WBC Junior Welterweight Titles

Terence Crawford is one of Top Rank Promotions’ biggest stars and has been a rumored opponent for Manny Pacquiao in the future.

Crawford regularly fights in Omaha and will have a nearly sold out venue cheering him on.

He’s twenty nine years old and is in the middle of his athletic prime. He’s four years younger than Molina, but will be giving up about two and a half inches in height as well as an inch in reach.

Crawford has been fairly active for a champion and fought twice in 2016 and twice in 2015. Molina has only fought once in 2016 and twice in 2015.

Crawford has twenty stoppage victories and three of his past five fights did not go the distance. Molina has twenty three stoppage wins, but has gone 3-3 in his past six fights.

Molina is always a dangerous fighter, and this was evident in his last upset victory over the hard hitting Provodnikov. He has also defeated the likes of Mickey Bey, Dannie Williams, and Henry Lundy. However, Molina also has an impressive list of opponents that he has lost to. These fighters include Antonio DeMarco, Andrey Klimov, Lucas Matthysse, Humberto Soto, and Adrien Broner.

Crawford has never been defeated and has been slowly increasing the level of competition that he faces in the ring. He has defeated the likes of Viktor Postol, Henry Lundy, Dierry Jean, Thomas Dulorme, Raymondo Beltran, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Ricky Burns, and Andre Klimov.

Crawford was also very successful as an amateur on the national level, and has even won a Police Athletic League Boxing Championship.

This is a fight that very few expect Crawford to lose. He’s a more technically skilled boxer than the last man that Molina beat and should be able to stop Molina.

Molina has been known for upsetting the apple cart from time to time, but Saturday is unlikely.

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Expectations Building to a Crescendo for Parker vs. Ruiz, Jr.


Expectations Building to a Crescendo for Parker vs. Ruiz, Jr.
By: Eric Lunger​

​On December 10th at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, Joseph Parker (21-0, 18 KO’s) will step into the ring for the biggest fight of his young career.

New Zealand heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker with trainer Kevin Barry after defeating Russia's Alexander Dimitrenko. Burger King Road to the Title by Duco Boxing. Auckland, New Zealand. Saturday 1 October 2016. © Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

With the WBO world championship at stake, Parker and his trainer, former Olympic silver medalist Kevin Barry, have been working together towards this goal for over four years. He will face a tough, undefeated and well-prepared Andy Ruiz, Jr. (29-0, 19 KO’s). But remaining focused amid a number of distractions and expectations is the biggest challenge the young fighter from New Zealand must now overcome.

​All fighters must minimize distractions in the final weeks leading up to a bout, but Parker has some unusual ones. First, is the best kind of distraction. On November 21st, Joseph’s long-time partner, Laine Tavita, gave birth in New Zealand to their first child, Elizabeth, while Joseph was finishing his final stretch of sparring in Las Vegas. Having a new baby in the midst of a run up to a title fight might be a distraction, or it might be the purest form of motivation to capture that belt.

​Second, Parker faces enormous pressure in the form of public and press expectations in New Zealand. Duco Promotions, a New Zealand based company, is calling this bout a major moment in New Zealand Sporting history. The company has brought the WBO belt itself to the country, and launched it on its own publicity tour, with the local media tracking its whereabouts each day. In New Zealand, Parker is often called “Gentleman Joe,” an indication both of his kind and humble demeanor outside the ring, and the respect he has among his fellow Kiwis. Furthermore, Parker proudly inhabits his Samoan heritage, and that island nation has backed the fight financially in return for significant tourism advertising. In a sense, Andy Ruiz can roll into Auckland as the outsider, and just focus on his fight plan. Joseph, on the other hand, has the weight of expectations of two nations on his shoulders.

​Third, HBO has picked up the fight, and it will be broadcast December 10th as the lead-in to the Crawford vs. Molina junior welterweight title clash in Omaha. When reached for comment, Kevin Barry characterized the fight this way: “This fight on paper could be the best Heavyweight match-up of the year. Both [guys] are undefeated, both are young, both have very fast hands and love to come forward in an explosive manner…. We are thrilled that HBO believes in this match-up and is showing it.” It’s a big stage, a world-wide television audience, in an era when the heavyweight division is about to catch fire.

​And finally, there’s the fight itself.

Andy Ruiz is a very good heavyweight. While Barry has played down the significance of the trainers, when pressed on the issue by the New Zealand media, boxing fans notice when a fighter heads to Big Bear, CA, and begins training under Abel Sanchez. Parker and his team know that they will be facing the best that Andy Ruiz has been in his career, and that he will come into the fight with a serious game plan.

​Joseph Parker faces some significant pressures and distractions as he makes his final preparations for December 10th. But that’s what you want, and need, if you are going to become heavyweight champion of the world.

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Andy Lee Plots His Return


Andy Lee Plots His Return
By: Sean Crose

Andy Lee, who was last seen losing his portion of the middleweight title last year, is now apparently rested and eager to return to the ring. This, friends, is good news. Why? Well, for starters, Lee is a good fighter. Sure he’s lost a few times (he’s 34-3-1), but he’s looked quite effective on more than one occasion – and against talented opposition, no less. Just ask Matt Korobov and Peter Quillin. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Lee can knock down a wall with his right hook. Yes, it’s a shot that can deliver, and that means Lee will always be an interesting fighter to watch.

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There’s something else worth liking about Lee, however, and that’s the fact that he probably means it when he claims willingness face Gennady Golovkin once he shakes off the rust. To be sure, the man gives no indication that he’ll price himself out, or argue that things need to marinate, or hide behind a managerial entity that can protect him. Lee’s record shows that he’s willing to challenge himself, win, lose or draw. Therefore, no matter what else happens, one might actually be able to believe there’s a top middleweight out there ready to challenge GGG now that Lee’s returning to the ring.

To be sure, Lee could give quite a few fighters out there some real trouble. He lost a close one to Billy Joe Saunders. Who’s to say Lee wouldn’t win a rematch – if Saunders would actually have one? Also, who’s to say Lee wouldn’t give Daniel Jacobs a run? Or Canelo Alvarez, for that matter? Indeed, Lee might well be able to beat each of those men. Could he beat GGG himself? One never knows, though it’s hard to imagine Golovkin falling to the Irishman – though there’s always that right hook to keep in mind.

As it stands, Lee claims to be back in the gym. He reportedly wants a quality opponent for his first fight back, then wants to shoot for the upper echelon of the middleweight division. Needless to say, it will be good to have the man back. He may not be an all time great middleweight, but he’s a pretty damn good one and he’s proven to be willing to – wait for it – take risks. Lee also comes across as a pretty nice guy, which is a good thing to see in boxing, where personalities can sometimes be as nasty as knockout blows.

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