Paul Lewis: Real risk in Joseph Parker's heavyweight clash

By Paul Lewis

Joseph Parker. Photo / Dean Purcell
Joseph Parker. Photo / Dean Purcell

Joseph Parker's world title fight is now so close, he could tap it on the end of the nose with his jab.

There's just one thing in his way: a tough French-Cameroonian fighter built like a block of flats and with his own title dreams.

These are heady days in heavyweight boxing. Parker's proposed clash with the dangerous Carlos Takam is just one of four fights imbued with something rare in boxing's hype-ridden, careful career manipulation: real risk.

The global heavyweight scene now has four top bouts in which it is difficult to pick winners. At the peak is the return match between hedgehog-eating motormouth Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko in May for the WBA and WBO belts. The WBC title bout between rookie US champion Deontay Wilder and Russian Alexander Povetkin is yet to be confirmed but has gone to a purse bid (where the highest bidder wins the right to stage and promote the bout). Wilder must fight Povetkin as mandatory challenger and will want to get this fight out of the way so he is free to challenge the winner of Fury-Klitschko in a reunification bout.

Whether he wins remains to be seen; Povetkin is a tough cookie, more on that later.

The IBF belt is up for grabs between another novice champion, Charles Martin of the US, and the next big hope of heavyweight boxing (according to British hype), Anthony Joshua, in April. Martin, like Wilder a champion who has fought virtually no one of note, is risking his crown. Joshua, if he loses, risks being seen as an empty threat.

Parker's fight with Takam is yet to be confirmed but is an eliminator to find the mandatory challenger who must be given a title shot at the winner of Martin-Joshua (or the champion can be stripped of his belt).

But can he beat Takam, ranked No 5 by the IBF and WBC and No 6 by the WBO? Few in these parts have heard of him but the 35-year-old is built like a fire station, can give and receive power shots, has had twice as many fights as Parker and more quality opponents.

His one defeat, apart from a loss by decision to a journeyman early in his 36-fight career, was to Povetkin who knocked him out after one of the fights of the year in 2014. It was a slugfest which Povetkin settled with a vicious right-left combination in the ninth round and another in the 10th to drop Takam cold.

Parker's last opponent, Jason Bergman, rated Parker ahead of Wilder (with whom Bergman has sparred) but behind Povetkin (also a sparring partner). Bergman would not repeat his assessment of Wilder on camera, probably because he wants to keep his options open with the WBC champ.

Povetkin had the edge because Bergman felt he could see most of Parker's punches coming whereas Povetkin was far harder to read. "Parker's right there with Povetkin, the difference is that you don't see Povetkin coming. He's so quick and tight and smooth."

That analysis is interesting as Bergman's game plan against Parker was essentially defensive, covering up and waiting for Parker to tire. It's way easier to read punches if you are not throwing much yourself.

Parker will have a height, reach and speed advantage while the heavier-set Takam is a pressure fighter who banks on power shots delivered courtesy of a tough chin withstanding what his opponent throws at him as he gets in range to score. In their bout, Takam rocked Povetkin once - and the Russian had never been down before his resounding defeat by former champ Klitschko in 2013.

If Parker can throw combinations, as Povetkin did to close the door against Takam, he can win. Few fighters, no matter how iron their chin, can withstand the destructive power of combinations delivered effectively.

Takam has beaten some of the same foes as Parker (he fought and TKO'd veteran South African Frans Botha a year before Parker did and KO'd Brazilian heavyweight Marcelo Luiz Nascimento last year, about 12 months after Parker stopped him).

But Takam has also fought well-performed boxers such as Cuba's Mike Perez (only two losses in 24 bouts, including one to Povetkin). Perez drew with Takam, although most thought Takam had won. He also beat the ageing but still dangerous US heavyweight Tony Thompson, who fought (and lost) twice against Klitschko.

If he can stay out of trouble (Takam has 25 knockouts in his 33 wins), Parker's greater skills could prevail. Even if he doesn't, it isn't necessarily the end of the world. Povetkin has come back strongly after going the distance with Klitschko but looking outmatched against the much bigger man who tired him by leaning on him and had him down four times, a lesson the 2.01m Wilder will have noted.

Takam himself has to take this fight to get back into contention after being floored by Povetkin - and Parker is only 24 and well able to work his way back into calculations.

Predictions for the big four fights: Martin to beat Joshua; Wilder to beat Povetkin; Parker to beat Takam and Klitschko to beat Fury.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 30 Sep 2016 03:18:22 Processing Time: 581ms