Source: Cojanu steps in as Parker opponent

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Heavyweight world titleholder Joseph Parker, in need of an opponent for his May 6 defense following the withdrawal of mandatory challenger Hughie Fury on Saturday, will face substitute Razvan Cojanu, a source with knowledge of the deal told ESPN on Tuesday.

Duco Events, Parker’s co-promoter, has scheduled a news conference on Wednesday for the formal announcement of the new opponent for the fight, which will take place at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, Parker’s home country.

Once England’s Fury, the first cousin of former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, withdrew, claiming a lower back problem that has hampered him in training for the past three weeks, Duco Events was given permission by the WBO to arrange an optional defense for Parker so long as the opponent was ranked in the organization’s top 15 heavyweights.

Cojanu (16-2, 9 KOs), 30, of Romania, who is based in Southern California, is rated 14th and therefore eligible, even if his résumé is extraordinarily thin for a world title challenger.

Cojanu is best known for advancing to the semifinals of the ESPN eight-man Boxcino heavyweight tournament in 2015. He was knocked out in the second round by Donovan Dennis. Since participating in the Boxcino tournament, the 6-foot-7 Cojanu, who weighed a career-high 282 pounds for his last fight, has won three bouts in a row against low-level opponents.

The 25-year-old Parker (22-0, 18 KOs), who is 6-4, 245 pounds, won a majority decision against Andy Ruiz Jr. on Dec. 10 in Auckland to claim one of the belts vacated by Tyson Fury. He was mandated to face 22-year-old Hughie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs), despite the fact that Fury has never beaten a top opponent.

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