Joseph Parker still holds the WBO world heavyweight title after a wide points victory over former sparring partner Razvan Cojanu, but may now find Dillian Whyte and Tony Bellew blocking his path to a lucrative clash with Anthony Joshua.
Parker’s team will say he was clinical; his detractors will say he was pedestrian. Either way, assessing the New Zealander’s maiden defence is a tricky business given how high the excitement bar was set the previous week by Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko.
Being clinical is certainly required at this stage of Parker’s career, of course. One false move and he’ll find himself belt-less and his aura of danger evaporated. It may not have been the spectacle his fans hoped for, but the job was done.
The bout was originally designed to be a more direct introduction to UK fans, only for unbeaten British heavyweight Hughie Fury to pull out due to a back injury.
Cojanu offered less exposure and provided less competition than Fury would have done — but the risk remained — lose the bout and lose the chance of a life-changing clash with Joshua. Parker could hardly have been blamed for being cautious.
There were times in the fight that caution didn’t seem to be his problem, though. The champion connected with his man on countless occasions and was caught with several counter right-hands over the top. Is this the fearsome puncher to stand toe-to-toe with Joshua and win a power battle? Probably not. Is it the awkward boxer to outwit Joshua the way many feel Tyson Fury would? Again, probably not.
Former British champion Whyte wasted no time in demanding a shot at Parker. “I would knock him out,” was the Londoner’s blunt assertion from his seat in the Sky Sports studios. Any likelihood of Whyte’s wish being granted will be gone if he fails to navigate a way past Mariusz Wach on June 3.
Whyte won’t be the only one chasing a date with Parker, either. ‘The Bodysnatcher’ knows it too. He added: “Send Tony Bellew to the back of the queue. Me against Parker is the only fight out there the fans want to see.”
Finding himself on the same commentary team as WBC champion Deontay Wilder for the Joshua vs. Klitschko fight, Bellew began a campaign to become the American’s first UK opponent. His unexpected win over David Haye has inspired the Liverpudlian to bill himself as a heavyweight in pursuit of another sizable pay-day.
Conceivably, then, it’s not out of the question that Whyte and Bellew will put Joshua’s rival champions through final auditions. That also throws up the possibility of all four world heavyweight titles being held by Britons before the year is out.
For his part, Parker would ideally head straight for Joshua rather than risk his crown against Whyte or Bellew. Whether his victory over Cojanu made enough ‘noise’ to successfully make that demand is uncertain. His primary selling point may lie in his fanbase; he is a pay-per-view fighter in his native country, which represents the kind of ‘untapped’ market Joshua and his team plan to explore.
Needless to say, we are dealing in conjecture. The knock-on effects of Klitschko’s impending decision to either fight again or retire will dictate a great deal. What can all but be confirmed is that Parker will face a British fighter very soon and his victory over Cojanu did little to increase the chances of it being Joshua.