By John J. Raspanti
WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker talked his way into a shot at IBF, IBO and WBA champion Anthony Joshua. Will he regret it? Likely not. Reports indicate that Parker will earn upwards of 10 million dollars.
But will he win?
The oddsmakers say no. They’ve listed Joshua as an 8-1 favorite to retain his belts when the big heavyweights meet this Saturday at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
Parker is undefeated in 24 fights, scoring 18 knockouts. He captured the WBO belt in 2016 by defeating Andy Ruiz. He defended it successfully last September against Hughie Fury. Both fights had one thing in common. They were terribly boring.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is not losing any sleep over his fighter’s bout against Parker. He’s already talking about having Joshua invade the United States later this year. Joshua doesn’t appear overly concerned either. He is annoyed though. Parker has made a big deal about his chin, or lack thereof. He also called Joshua a steroid user, for which he apologized for. Joshua wants to make him pay for his insolence.
Joshua,28, has won all 20 of his fights by knockout. He won the IBF heavyweight title two years ago and the IBO and WBA belts in 2017 by knocking out former long-time champion Wladimir Klitscko. The big guy can crack. He defended his crowns last October by stopping late replacement Carlos Takam. The charismatic Joshua is wildly popular and will likely have most of the sellout crowd (90,000) cheering for him.
Parker,26, will enter the ring with disadvantages in height and reach. He shot up the heavyweight rankings after scoring impressive knockouts, but hasn’t stopped anybody since 2016.
His growth as a fighter also seemed to recede, even though his weight increased. His most impressive victory was over Joshua victim Carlos Takam. Parker didn’t stop Takam, but he also refused to drown when he got into deep water during the match with his rugged opponent. He battled back, and won.
Recent reports indicate that he had surgery late last year on both of his elbows. This revelation could help to explain his recent lackluster performances.
Joshua is not without flaws himself. The jury is still out on his chin and stamina. He looked gassed in his last fight.
Some of this could matter if the fight goes into the late rounds. Can Parker’s chin standup to Joshua power shots? If he can, he just might win. If not, he’ll be stopped before round seven.