Paul Lewis on sport

Paul Lewis is the Herald on Sunday's Sport Editor

Paul Lewis: Right time to take on world

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Joseph Parker raised his game against Brazilian heavyweight Marcelo Luiz Nascimento. Photo / Getty Images
Joseph Parker raised his game against Brazilian heavyweight Marcelo Luiz Nascimento. Photo / Getty Images

You know a sport is doing well when the promoters start bitching at each other. This week, New Zealand Professional Boxing Association boss (and referee and former heavyweight) Lance Revill accused the handlers of rising heavyweight Joseph Parker of being "fools" for pushing him "too hard, too fast".

Revill said David Higgins and Dean Lonergan, of Duco Events, were too interested in money and were pushing their fighter into the ring with boxers he was not yet ready for. With all due respect to Revill, for many years a cornerstone of New Zealand boxing and the only Kiwi ever to get in the ring with Muhammad Ali (even in an exhibition fight), that's about as credible as a turkey telling Thanksgiving jokes.

Parker has ability Revill never had. Revill's contention that Parker should be cleaning up New Zealand heavyweights before starting on the Australians is redolent of a career that never moved beyond those local boundaries.

Being bold and aiming high is no crime, particularly if there is talent to sustain that approach. Parker is a formidable young man, made even more so by his hand speed and growing ringcraft — not to mention a likeable personality and a sensible grip on the important things in life. Those physical, mental and social attributes can a champion make.


Duco has transformed New Zealand boxing. It is doubtful the Super 8 3x3-minute round fights on June 4 starring former world champion Hasim Rahman, big American Alonzo Butler and 39-year-old UK journeyman Michael Sprott would have gained any traction without Duco's previous work in the fight game.

The same could be said of Inga Tuigamala's appearance on a seven-fight, pay-per-view fight card headed by Robbie Berridge in Auckland on May 22. That would have struggled had Duco not staged the David Tua-Shane Cameron classic back in 2009.

Duco has done little wrong with the 22-year-old Parker and is slowly — slowly — raising the ante in terms of the skill of his opponents. Parker has had just eight fights. Six of them were against, in top boxing terms, complete nobodies, apart from the clearly-over-the-hill Frans Botha.

Parker was all set to take on difficult, hard-punching US heavyweight Sherman Williams on the undercard of the latest Wladimir Klitchsko world heavyweight title bout against Australia's Alex Leapai - before Williams pulled out.

So he fought, and beat by TKO, tough Brazilian heavyweight Marcelo Luiz Nascimento, no easy rival and a step up from anyone Parker had fought previously.

Nascimento has fought credible heavyweights such as Tyson Fury, Jovo Pudar and Solomon Haumono (even if he lost to them all) and wobbled Parker in one round as the young man perhaps forgot to move when required.

It was a clever feat to get Parker on to the Klitschko undercard. Global attention does no one any harm in professional sport. But too much, too fast? Nah.

If he is going to make the grade, Parker is going to have to fight quality and learn on the way up — not spend his time knocking over tomato cans, as the Yanks say.

Revill's criticism comes ahead of Parker's July fight with Brian Minto, the tough, US heavyweight with weighty punches, flailing elbows and a dangerous leader with the head. A man who can cut opponents, which is maybe Parker's one worry. Minto may have effectively ended Shane Cameron's career but what else has he done, really? He is 39 and has a 39 win-7 loss record. Reasonable names he has fought include Tony Tubbs, Chris Arreola, Marco Huck and Michael Sprott. Lost to them all.

His best scalp was probably big German Axel Schulz; 36 when Minto beat him in 2006 and well past a prime that saw him fight (and lose to) the likes of Henry Akinwande, Michael Moorer and George Foreman before an ill-judged title fight against Klitschko put him into retirement for seven years before an equally ill-judged comeback, ended by Minto.

Minto's value is in his style. Parker has to be a boxer, avoid being butted and show some of the beauty and skill of the sport in using that handspeed and footwork to punch and move, jab and go, hit and run. It's go-to-school time.


Don't give me any of this "too young" 22-year-old stuff. If you're good enough, you're old enough. Ali was only 18 when he fought journeyman Tunney Hunsaker in his first professional bout. He was only 22 when he won the world title against Sonny Liston in that weird, suspicious bout. At that stage, he had only had 19 fights and included among them was ageing great Archie Moore and a then 29-year-old Henry Cooper whose famous left hook knocked Ali down and nearly beat him. He went to school, too.

Now Klitschko, the undisputed world champion, wants to unite all of boxing's various, ridiculous titles and has been ordered to defend his IBF title against extremely tough Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev.

He may not be recognised by many but could be more of a test than the champion has endured lately. He is 33, undefeated in 20 fights, dodged by many who don't want to fight him and has beaten reputable heavyweights Tony Thompson, Sprott and Alexander Ustinov — the giant Russian who rather easily ended David Tua's career last year.

Parker's timing is good, too, as Klitschko may well be on his way out relatively soon.

Klitschko, 38, with 62 wins, 52 KOs and only three defeats in his 65-fight career, said he wanted to unify all the titles after belting Leapai.

Canada's Bermane Stiverne and Arreola fight to contest the vacant WBC belt today after which Klitschko could challenge — as he has never held the WBC title (but has the WBA, IBF and WBO titles).

The huge Ukrainian is clearly the best in the world — even Pulev may not be a valid threat — and if he does toss in the towel on his career some time soon, the field will be wide open. Maybe even for a young hopeful from New Zealand.

Don't scoff. Stranger things have happened in boxing.

- Herald on Sunday

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