Things came kinda easy for Joseph Parker early on in his professional career. He made his name in Aotearoa beating up on pensioners in front of drunk corporate crowds and then just as he was winding the corner into actual relevance, with an excellent win over Carlos Takam, the lineal champ Tyson Fury was going through a complete breakdown which would lead to him vacating his belts. Joseph Parker and Andy Ruiz were then scheduled to scrap for one of those vacated belts, the WBO heavyweight title belt – two undefeated fighters who had a combined zero previous title fights . Parker won a narrow decision in Auckland City and there you go. He defended that WBO title twice before agreeing to a unification bout with Anthony Joshua.
And ever since then the fortune that had shimmered upon his career in those early years has flipped. Anthony Joshua won that fight, and the belts, with a borderline cynical performance where he relied on his reach to rack the points up, keeping Parker at a distance for a comfortable decision win, comfortable in more ways than one. But one loss is fine, it’s how you bounce back that matters and Joseph Parker’s defeat to Dillian Whyte is really where things caught the downswing.
Like, you may think this spider bit fiasco is an outrageous fluke of misfortune but misfortune has been a common trend in recent times. Against Dillian Whyte he was maybe an extra minute in that final round away from winning the bout, catching that dude in a flurry of furious cuts and jabs but the bell sounded and Whyte got out of there with the W. Parker had left it too late – a failure of tactics but also a consequence of a head clash in the second round which was ruled a knockdown, controversially, and which more crucially left Parker a little dazed for the next couple rounds and by the time he had his legs under him properly (he was dropped again in the ninth but dropped Whyte himself in the twelfth) he was well behind on the cards. Again, he could have approached the fight more aggressively but luck didn’t help him.
Afterwards he was left in a downbuzz. Back to back defeats had skittled his reputation. He bounced back with a simple win over Alexander Flores in December last year but then things got frustrating again for reasons out of his control. Having done the clever thing and hitched his wagon to Eddie Hearn he was immediately inked to fight Eric Molina, a former title challenger, as the first step in Matchroom’s three-fight plan to get Parker back in contention. But Molina’s camp, helmed by Don King of all people, drove too hard a bargain in negotiations and eventually just straight pulled out of the fight, leaving Parker scrambling to bring Alex Leapai in on short notice whom he thoroughly dominated for a tenth round TKO.
That fight was absolutely nothing to get the world interested in Joseph Parker as a legit heavyweight again but it also wasn’t really his fault, he was supposed to fight somebody else. So Eddie Hearn and David Higgins conspired to put Joe in the ring with Dereck Chisora and for a while there that was looking like a real deal bout. Chisora was playing the heel in the promos. Parker’s camp was talking up how he’s the fittest he’s ever been. It was a fight that Parker should have been expected to be able to win, Chisora can throw a mean punch but he’s not got the same level of technique as Parker so as long as Parker could withstand the power then he was a good bet to take him on the judges’ cards, which would have gotten him the big headlines he needs to change his public momentum.
Except then he was bitten by a spider and forced to pull out of the fight with a doctor’s note. It’s been 14 months since the Dillian Whyte setback and Parker is still yet to have a meaningful rebound win – and it’s unlikely he fights before December now which would make it close to 17 months. It’s possible something else is arranged but Parker’s camp have said they want to reschedule the Chisora bout while Chisora is still set on fighting on this October 26 card which means he’ll need a couple months in between fights afterwards and that’s only if he wins. Hearn’s talking about a top-15 opponent to replace Parker so there’s every chance he doesn’t.
A spider bite. Have you ever heard anything quite like it? Sounds like he turned up for camp in Las Vegas with a sore on his leg and that got infected or something which led to a virus which has kept him out of training for the past week and caused his team, under medical suggestion, to pull out. This is still three weeks out from the bout itself so what are we talking about here, a month-long illness caused by a spider? Nasty little bastards those things, aye. I s’pose as much as anything Joe Parker’s team knows that he’s maybe on his last lifeline as a heavyweight prospect in Britain and putting him in underprepared and risking defeat would be a danger to both his health and his career. It’s the safe option to take… but honestly a spider bite? This dude been walking under ladders too? He got a black cat or three? Broken a mirror perhaps?
Apparently Las Vegas is notorious for spiders, to be fair. Black widows in particular, which, if they bite you, “can provoke symptoms such as chest discomfort, nausea, perspiration and cramping”. Like most animals they’ll only attack if they felt threatened but sometimes you’re just unlucky and Joseph Parker would know a fair bit about being unlucky these days… though if he’s keeping mindful then he does sorta have to admit that he got a whole lot of the good stuff early on and this is probably just a little cosmic accounting. We thrive through our adversity. If his first world title was a tad fortunate then his next one (should it ever happen) will have to come the hard way.
And if Parker can come back stronger from yet another disappointing happening in his career here then there might even be a bonus reward for him because in early December is the Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz rematch and sneaking onto the undercard of that one could be the ticket he needs to get a rematch with whoever wins, particularly if it’s Andy Ruiz since he has reason to want to fight Parker again and avenge his narrow defeat a couple years back. Not saying that any of those outcomes are likely but the way things seem to happen to Joseph Parker lately you never quite know. Just gotta steer clear of those cobwebs, is all.
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