PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Joseph Parker wipes sweat off his brow with his hand wraps under the unforgiving sun, ending his public workout with a devilish grin.
The former world heavyweight champion feels reinvigorated these days, and for good reason. After recently announcing he had signed a three-fight promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing USA, Parker — and the global sweet science community — watched Andy Ruiz Jr. pull off a stunning upset of Anthony Joshua earlier this month to become the first Mexican in boxing history to become world heavyweight champion.
Ruiz’s victory thrust Parker back into the forefront of the heavyweight picture, or at least that’s what the 27-year-old New Zealander believes. He is the only man to have handed the new unified champion a loss and also the only fighter to have taken Joshua the distance. The combination of both facts has Parker believing he can challenge the winner of the impending Ruiz-Joshua rematch for a chance to reign as heavyweight champion once again.
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“I’m in a great position, you know?” Parker tells Sporting News in downtown Providence, days away from facing Alex Leapai (32-7-4, 26 KOs) on Saturday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center as the co-main event to Demetrius Andrade vs. Maciej Sulecki. “I beat Andy Ruiz, Ruiz beat Joshua, now they’re having a rematch … The whole division has opened up. We got big names like (Tyson) Fury, (Deontay) Wilder, so I look forward to being amongst the top heavyweights in the world. I want to be the top at some stage.
“I want to be champ of the world again, or unified champ of the world, so I’m working as hard as I can to get there.”
In December 2016, Parker (25-2, 19 KOs) became world heavyweight champion by scoring a majority decision over Ruiz to capture the then-vacant WBO title. It stands as the lone loss on Ruiz’s 33-1 (22 KOs) pro ledger, although the “Destroyer” and many boxing pundits alike believe he did enough to have his hand raised after that fight.
To that notion, Parker has a resolution — a rematch.
“I’ll fight him anytime, anywhere, any place,” Parker says. “If he wants to fight here in America, I’ll fight him here. If he wants to fight in Mexico, I’ll fight in Mexico. I beat him the first fight, I’ll beat him again if we ever fight.”
Unlike much of the boxing world, Parker was not shocked when Ruiz defeated Joshua. He was just surprised by the manner in which the Mexican went about doing it — four knockdowns en route to a seventh-round TKO.
“I knew that he had the ability to win, but I didn’t know he’d win like that,” Parker says. “But it just shows how determined and motivated he was going into the fight. He told everyone he was going to win. He was able to do what he said he was going to do.
“(Joshua) was at the top for so long, but it just shows that anything can happen in boxing. I think he’s a great champion. I think he’ll come back stronger and better. But it was just one of those days where it wasn’t his day. It was Andy Ruiz’s day. You got to give Andy Ruiz credit.”
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And Parker has given Ruiz his due credit, but the fact remains that he delivered the only blemish on the newly minted champ’s record, and one that sparked his own title reign. After edging Ruiz on the scorecards, Parker produced back-to-back title defenses against Razvan Cojanu and Hughie Fury before losing the WBO strap to Joshua by unanimous decision in March 2018.
About four months later, Parker suffered another unanimous decision loss, this time to Dillian Whyte. The scintillating fight had Whyte knocking Parker down in the second and ninth rounds, only for the Samoan to return the favor in the 12th but still come up short on the scorecards.
If Parker can’t immediately secure a shot against the winner of Ruiz-Joshua 2, he would be up for facing Whyte and attempting to avenge his only other loss. Whyte and Joshua being part of Matchroom Boxing factored into Parker signing with Eddie Hearn’s promotional outfit.
.@joeboxerparker, Matchroom’s newest signee, will be facing Alex Leapai this weekend.
Parker is the one man who defeated newly-crowned unified world heavyweight champ Andy Ruiz Jr. pic.twitter.com/CKBXw0LSWP
— Sporting News Fights (@sn_fights) June 26, 2019
“I looked at it and I thought they were the best in my eyes,” Parker says of Matchroom. “They’re open market to the U.S. and the U.K., and they got a big stable of fighters who I want to fight. I want to fight Dillian Whyte again. I want to fight Anthony Joshua again.”
He might land his chance to do both in due time. After all, what seemed like a three-headed monster of Joshua, Wilder and Fury in the heavyweight division has opened up to include Parker and Whyte, according to Parker.
That has him grinning after every workout.
“I feel great, I feel fantastic, I feel sharp, I’ve done all the work,” insists Parker, who is seeking his second straight win. “I’m excited to put on a good performance, and I’m excited for the future and what it brings.”
He should be.
Written by Mark Lelinwalla
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