Boxing: US dream now a reality

By Paul Lewis

After his defeat to Joseph Parker, Frans Botha says there is only one place for the promising heavyweight to go.

Joseph Parker is a heavyweight boxer of such promise that he needs to be taken to the US - that's the word from the man Parker pitched into retirement after his second-round stoppage in their fight on Thursday night: Francois Botha.

The burly, 44-year-old South African announced his professional retirement after the fight with Parker, though he is in the process of arranging exhibition fights with former world champions Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson in Tanzania and the Congo to raise money for various charities.

Botha has had 62 heavyweight bouts; his record reads like a Who's Who of boxing in the past 25 years: current champion Wladimir Klitschko, Holyfield, Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Michael Moorer, Shannon Briggs, Michael Grant and many more. So it's worth listening when he is asked how he would handle the 21-year-old Parker if he was his manager.

"You have to take him to the United States," said Botha. "There are so many fighters there that you can basically source what kind of fighter you want him to fight against.

"You have to be very careful with him, now that he is beginning to get known. You have to pick your opponents. You can select them based on whether they suit your fighter's style, yes, but that's not really what I am talking about. You need to find opponents against whom you have at least an 80 per cent chance of winning.

"There is never anything certain in boxing but 80 per cent is as low a chance as you go. Not 70 per cent and certainly not 60 per cent. You train and fight in the US and you build up a record and you get noticed and you end up getting a title shot. He'll do that, I'm sure of it - he'll get a title shot if they handle him like that.

"Look at this fight against me. Okay, he won, but it was a big risk for him. But he will start going up the ladder now and he's a good boy."

There's not much danger of Parker not going to the US, the seat of his sponsorship by Union Gaming. He and trainer Kevin Barry said after the fight that they would be returning to Las Vegas to continue the training and relationship that produced such a fit, fast and crisp-hitting Parker.

His victory immediately produced speculation that his connections would call out Shane Cameron or Sonny Bill Williams.

Duco's Dean Lonergan said they would be interested in staging a fight but Williams would "run like a little girl" and that Cameron against Parker would be career-ending for the former. Certainly, if you applied Botha's 80 per cent rule Williams would be unlikely to take the bout against Parker. However, this is boxing, where money not only talks but tends to dominate. A Williams-Parker fight would be highly marketable and lucrative. In New Zealand.

But Parker's international prospects have also risen. It is understood he is being considered as a possible sparring partner for a boxer soon to be involved in a world title fight. Modern boxing has any number of so-called title fights but there are rumbles this may involve a Klitschko, one of the two brothers who have dominated the division. Wladimir is set to fight tough Russian Alexander Povetkin in a US$23 million ($28.5m) extravaganza in October. Brother Vitali is set to fight WBC mandatory challenger Bermane Stiverne and is then widely rumoured to be planning a pre-retirement fight against Britain's David Haye in another big earner. Wladimir fought Haye in a unification bout in 2011, winning clearly in a unanimous points decision.

Haye appears to be set first to fight another up-and-coming Briton, the 24-year-old, 2.06m, 117kg Tyson Fury (named by a boxing-mad father) in a fight already being hyped as 'The Battle Of Britain'. Fury is unbeaten after 21 fights as a heavyweight and the bout with Haye could be worth up to £5 million (nearly $10m).

Sparring partners often end up getting title fights. A former sparring partner of Wladimir Klitschko's, Francesco Pianeta, was his opponent just last month (he lost by TKO after six rounds). Pianeta also beat Botha, last year, in a 10-round unanimous decision.

The Parker sparring invitation may not materialise; this is boxing, with more fables than Aesop. But this was in the offing even before Parker's Botha fight - showing that he is being noticed and that this is the kind of territory to which a 21-year-old Joseph Parker may already be getting a little closer.

- Herald on Sunday

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