By Anthony Cocks
The war of words between Duco Events and Team Fury has heated up in recent days with the shock announcement that WBO mandatory heavyweight contender Hughie Fury would be withdrawing from his scheduled world title challenge against New Zealand’s reigning world champion Joseph Parker on 6th May citing a back injury.
Team Fury released a press statement outlining the reason for the postponement. Duco Events, who promote Parker, claim that the first they heard of Fury’s decision to withdraw was through the media.
“Hughie has been declared medically unfit to box following a medical assessment,” read the statement in part. “He suffered an injury to his lower back which has been a serious issue for the last three weeks that has left him unable to train to his full capacity. Despite receiving intense physiotherapy treatment and his desire to fight for the WBO world title, after seeing his physiotherapist last Friday he has been advised to rest for three to four weeks before resuming training.”
The statement is at odds with an article written by Fury and published last Friday in England’s Daily Mirror in which he claimed it was the first time in a long time he had had a proper training camp.
“With just two weeks until I take on Joseph Parker, everything has gone well in training,” he wrote. “I know every fighter says that, even when it’s not true, but I’m raring to go.”
David Higgins of Duco Events has expressed doubts that Team Fury ever wanted to go to New Zealand to fight in the first place.
“Since day one they didn’t want to come to New Zealand,” Higgins told Radio NZ. “They fought the original negotiations, then had to go to purse bid and we won it and then elected to have the fight in New Zealand and then there were more fights over the contract negotiations. I just don’t think they wanted to come here. We must remember there’s probably a one in a billion chance there’s an injury.”
Meanwhile in the northern hemisphere Peter Fury, trainer and father of Hughie, has denied his son is dodging Parker and claimed Duco Events tried to get the bout relocated to England just a few weeks ago.
“There have been comments from Parker’s team suggesting we never wanted the fight in the first place, but I can reveal they came over to us a few weeks ago to try to move the fight to England,” he wrote in the Daily Mirror. “We have written evidence of us saying ‘let’s stop messing around and get on with May 6’.
“It was they who were trying to move the fight, even after preparations were already underway. The date had been set but they said they had spent too much money on the fight and that it wouldn’t work in New Zealand. ...I think they’d like to skip past Hughie and they’re looking for any excuse not to fight him. We will be sending the WBO proof of the injury.”
In the same article Peter said that the WBO should reschedule the Parker-Fury fight for another date as soon as possible.
The WBO has been largely silent on the matter, apart from a pair of tweets on Sunday from president Paco Valcarcel that said “As of today, it seems there will be no WBO Heavyweight World Title fight in New Zealand” and, a little cryptically, “It seems the problem lies within Team Fury”.
Whether the sanctioning body acquiesces to Peter Fury’s request for the mandatory defence be rescheduled remains to be seen, but they may take a dim view of Hughie’s late withdrawal if sufficient proof of his injury can’t be provided.
The only real winner in this situation is US-based Romanian heavyweight Razvan “Big Foot” Cojanu 16-2 (9) who will get the chance of a lifetime when he replaces Fury against Parker 22-0 (18) on 6th May in Auckland, New Zealand.
It won’t be the towering 30-year-old’s first trip downunder.
In 2013 he fought Kiwi Paula Mataele on the undercard of Aussie heavyweight Lucas Browne vs James Toney in Melbourne, Australia. The following year he was hired by Alex Leapai ahead of “Lionheart’s” world title challenge to Wladimir Klitschko. And more recently, Parker himself used Conjanu as a sparring partner to help him prepare for none other than... you guessed it, Hughie Fury.
At 6’7½” at 270-odd pounds, Cojanu is a fair lump of a man. But as the saying goes, familiarity breed contempt and that’s exactly what I expect Parker to show Cojanu come fight night.
Duco Events and their matchmaker Stuart Duncan must be commended for salvaging the show by securing the services of the WBO’s #14 heavyweight, who may yet prove to be a greater challenge than many of us expect.
Watch this space.