By John J. Raspanti
How good is New Zealand heavyweight Joseph Parker?
An answer to this question could be forthcoming when hometown hero Parker meets fellow undefeated heavyweight Andy Ruiz at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand this Saturday for the WBO heavyweight title, which became available when Tyson Fury was forced to relinquish his part of the championship due to drug and mental problems.
Parker has scored 18 knockouts in his 21 victories. To say boxing is in his blood is something of an understatement for the 24-year-old who first landed his stinging jab before he hit kindergarten.
At the age of 3, he was popping his tiny knuckles into the palm of his father, Dempsey, who happened to be named after legendary heavyweight champion, Jack Dempsey.
Parker turned professional in 2012, after a short amateur career highlighted by winning gold at the China Open the year before. He knocked out nine of his first 10 opponents, showing steady improvement. His first real test was last year when he faced former WBO and NABO champion, Kali Meehan. Parker stopped the bigger Meehan in three brutal rounds.
Seven months later he squared off against tough guy, Carlos Takam winner of 33 of 35 bouts. Parker had to know he was in deep in the very first stanza when Takam countered his jabs with heavy right-hands. Parker found his bearings as the fight progressed, boxing and banging enough to win a close decision.
Ruiz (29-0, 19 KOs) recently watched tape of Parker’s narrow win.
He was hardly impressed.
"In his fight against Carlos Takam he didn’t really look that good. He’s not good fighting backward," Ruiz told www.fightnews.com a few weeks ago.
Parker agreed with Ruiz to certain extent, but also believes that the Takam fight ultimately helped him.
“Well, firstly, I was disappointed with my performance in that fight,” Parker said. “I know I can do a lot better. However, the experience of going through a fight like that has been invaluable to me.
“To fight when you are not feeling at your best but then being able to dig down deep and pull out the victory does give me a lot of confidence. Andy has had some big fights, but I’m not sure he’s ever had a war like the one I’ve had against Takam,” Parker added.
Ruiz, 27, the NABF heavyweight titleholder 2014, will enter the ring the shorter man by several inches. That, he said, is not a problem, based on his experience.
"I have been fighting tall fighters all my life so this fight is not going to be any different. I like fighting taller fighters because tall fighters don’t like to fight short fighters.”
Ruiz’ advancement to a title shot hasn’t been nearly as quick as Parker’s, but the former amateur star seems to finally have his career, and weight problems, under control.
When he debuted as professional in 2009, Ruiz weighed a whopping 297 pounds.
He weighed 45 pounds less last September when he shut out 40-year-old Franklin Lawrence over 10 rounds with his new trainer, the respected Abel Sanchez, in his corner.
Both fighters have fast hands, but Parker has quicker feet. He likely won’t stand in the center of the ring and fire punches with Ruiz.
He’ll use lateral movement, find his spot, and pop. Parker can crack, but so can Ruiz.
Both boxers are hoping to create history Saturday night. Parker is motivated to become the first New Zealand-born fighter to win a significant heavyweight title, while Ruiz is determined to be the first Mexican heavyweight champion.
So, who wins this Saturday?
I’m giving the edge to Parker for the following reasons. He’s a little quicker, a little longer, and will use his legs when needed. Ruiz will follow, hoping to unleash his rapid combinations—which could surprise Parker at times.
Parker has one more advantage. He’s basically fighting in his backyard. The arena in Auckland is expected to be sold-out.
It could be difficult for Ruiz to win a decision.
Parker takes it.
Grab a copy of the national bestseller Intimate Warfare by Dennis Taylor and John J. Raspanti at Amazon.com and other locations.