All the talk and the many hundreds of words written about Joseph Parker’s professional career heading back into the “unknown” after his defeat to Joe Joyce may be missing the point.
Parker, who stated immediately after his TKO defeat to Englishman Joyce that he wants to get back into the ring as soon as possible, has never been more popular in the United Kingdom and that matters in the world of pay-per-views and broadcasting deals.
Yes, another title challenge appears unlikely but even had he beaten Joyce and won the re-match, the path to Oleksandr Usyk or Tyson Fury or whoever the WBO heavyweight world champion is next year or the year after would not have been smooth.
The clock is ticking on his career; Parker, 30, has previously said he wants to retire in his early 30s, but he has signed a “multi-fight” deal (terms unknown) with promoters Boxxer, and will likely make plenty more money before he calls it quits as Sunday’s performance will help burnish his reputation as a charismatic athlete with a warrior spirit.
It’s a disappointing setback as far as his world title hopes are concerned because he entered the ring supremely confident after a meticulous training camp but his hunger remains and his reaction to the defeat spoke volumes about his mentality and character.
Read more: Joseph Parker vows to get ‘straight back in’ after KO loss
Putting aside for a minute the physical and psychological damage the defeat may or may not have had on Parker following a loss to a big and athletic man who appears to have one of the best cardiovascular systems in the heavyweight division (and one of the hardest heads), this was a hugely entertaining fight and it revealed plenty about both men.
UK boxing fans – and this is clearly Parker’s market now as his home away from Auckland is in Morecambe, the seaside town in the north of England – appreciate action and courage in the ring and they like to identify with fighters. They also like value for money.
Englishman Dillian Whyte still has a big following despite a less than perfect record because of his all-action style, and a re-match against Whyte, who is coming off a stoppage loss to Parker’s good friend Fury, would be a hugely popular (and relatively lucrative) fight for Parker.
The average fan isn’t necessarily drawn in by boxing excellence but by notoriety (see Mike Tyson), and, or, likeability and relatability.
Therefore, the manner of Parker’s defeat to Joyce in the 11th round in Manchester – his first stoppage loss as a professional – and his conduct afterwards, would have endeared himself hugely to audiences in the UK and further afield.
Parker has been criticised previously in the UK for being an overly technical and conservative boxer, but, like it or not, that probably no longer applies.
Under coach Andy Lee, who has overseen his last three fights, Parker appears to have more self belief and faith in his power, albeit without his previously snappy jab and ability to throw in combinations, and, as the pair analyse the defeat, those failures may become apparent.
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His punching volume and head and feet movement decreased from the end of the second round which may raise other questions about his conditioning and weight (he was at a career-high 115.7kg).
Regardless, Parker struck Joyce with some fearsome left hooks and straight rights which would probably have hurt many others in the division, but the relentless Joyce was untroubled.
That may say less about Parker’s one-punch power, and more about Joyce’s ability to take a punch, however.
It was a remarkable performance from Joyce, whose output over the final three quarters of the fight was spectacular, and the 37-year-old’s quality and performance shouldn’t be underestimated.
Is Parker heading into the unknown? Boxers in the modern professional heavyweight era generally operate in just that area as far as their careers are concerned because in no other sport does self-interested politics and deal-making intersect with the concussive blows inflicted by fists wearing 10oz gloves.
There are few certainties in his sport and Parker knows that as well as anyone. He just wants to keep going for now and there is no doubt he will pick up a few new fans along the way.
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