They’ve been pretty low-key times for Joseph Parker lately. Even the biggest bit of news in ages for him, the revelation that he’d signed a promotion deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, was swiftly overshadowed by one of his new label-mates getting flogged in the wildest upset in heavyweight boxing arguably since Buster Douglas popped Mike Tyson way back when. Parker’s announcement was made just days before the Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz fight while Eddie Hearn was pretty well occupied already and safe to say the spotlight didn’t get any brighter on Parker after what followed within the heavyweight division.
But this was a sneaky massive decision, with wide-ranging implications for Joseph Parker’s prominence at the top of the division. His six-year affiliation with Duco had ended in late March and since then the word was that he was ready for something new, tossing up between Eddie Hearn/Matchroom and Bob Arum/Top Rank (both of whom he already has affiliations with)… and ultimately it just made sense to take the British option with the stronger pool of fighters available to him there as well as the much greater recognition he has in the United Kingdom after fights against Hughie Fury, Anthony Joshua, and Dillian Whyte. Even if he lost two of them, he still put up enough of a scrap to get his name out there.
The deal with Matchroom is for three fights, with the first announced as Eric Molina who he’ll step into the ring against on June 29 on the undercard of the Demetrius Andrade vs Maciej Sulecki middleweight title bout in Rhode Island, USA. Back at it six months after whalloping a pretty useless Alexander Flores in Christchurch… so one of the first ramifications of all this is that we aren’t likely to see him fighting in Aotearoa again any time soon. Which I doubt anybody’s too upset about considering the quality of opponents that would mean. Eric Molina, on the other hand, is a two-time title contender who has stepped into the ring with both Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua – getting knocked out both times. He’s only fought once since losing to Dominic Breazeale in November 2017 but he’s a solid opponent even at 37 years old and will be a gatekeeper back into contention for Parker. Win that fight, as he should, and then we really get to see what Eddie Hearn’s got up his sleeve.
Basically the feeling was that Parker x Duco had gone as far as they could go together. Fair play to the Duco crew, despite the many doubters out there they took him to a world title belt and beyond however without the bargaining power of the big dogs out there, arranging top tier fights without the dangling carrot of that title belt was going to be tough unless Parker was happy to be ripped off at the negotiation table. But this isn’t a complete break, David Higgins will continue to be with Parker as a manager now. Which puts the delightful but cringeworthy bromance between Eddie Hearn and David Higgins into a new context as they’re now on the same team.
This was all about keeping Parker relevant. He’s got to work his way back up to the top again and he won’t get there the quick way like last time when he fought for a vacant belt. There’s a legit argument that he’d gone as far as he could with Duco and it always helps to keep things humble so it’s refreshing to see this development not only from Parker but also from David Higgins and Duco – in case anyone thought they didn’t have Joe’s best interests at heart.
Top Rank will have appealed, Bob Arum already had a small stake in Parker’s fortunes before. But Top Rank just weren’t as good an option as Matchroom. Fewer top tier heavyweights, more work to do to establish him in America (although his first fight with Matchroom is in the States, tbf – they’re obviously trying to expand over the Atlantic themselves), and perhaps most notably a longer road back to the title. Hard to believe that sharing a promoter with Anthony Joshua wasn’t a key part of this role. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer, as they say.
Of course, that was before Anthony Joshua went and lost all three of his world championship belts to Andy Ruiz… an ex-Top Rank fighter who signed with Al Haymon in January. But that fight won’t have any implications for Joseph Parker in the short term (other than improving his record, will come back around to that idea soon). Joshua and Ruiz are going to have a rematch in England next, it was in the contract, and that won’t be for a few months but Parker wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near Joshua or those belts until the third fight of that Matchroom deal at the absolute soonest. And even then a rematch with Dillian Whyte feels way more likely first. Parker doesn’t have that belt as leverage these days. And for the first time in his pro career now he won’t be the number one priority fighter for his promoters, though that might be a good thing for him to build up his credibility worldwide. He’s still only 27 – he’s got a decade left at the top if he wants it.
What was fascinating about how Andy Ruiz beat Anthony Joshua was the way that AJ approached it and the way that backfired on him. When AJ fought Parker, he sacrificed his knockout ability in order to take the comfortable points decision knowing that Parker didn’t have the length or power to break down his defences if AJ didn’t make any mistakes. Chuck in a clinch-snappy ref and that was that. Parker lasted twelve rounds with the champ without getting too hurt but the cynical approach from Joshua, who was also keen to prove to his doubters that he can box as well as slug, took care of business.
But against a similar fighter in Ruiz – quick hands, impossible to hurt (although Parker is obviously fitter but Ruiz is also much stronger) – Joshua got carried away. Ruiz was a backup option who took the fight on four weeks’ notice following Jarrell Miller’s PED snap. Joshua didn’t get complacent, I highly doubt that, but maybe the team around him did because his fight plan was flawed from the beginning and we finally found the answer to the question that people have asked since way back: what happens when somebody can handle his power?
Parker never got to experience the power. Ruiz did… and he slapped back. If Joshua had been a little more formulaic then he coulda won it same way as he did Parker, after all he won all the rounds he wasn’t knocked down in. But the fact that he didn’t was telling. Parker’s points victory over Ruiz is bathing in a way more flattering light these days. In fact it’s now comfortably the best win on his record.
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