It's time Joseph Parker took on a taller, bigger man ahead of meeting IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua - and it could be about to happen soon.
Parker fights Solomon Haumono in Christchurch on July 21 but the focus is shifting to a potential title bout with Joshua because of injury and alleged drugs complications involving WBA, WBO and IBO champion Tyson Fury.
Haumono, while he has undoubted knockout power, is shorter than Parker.
Joshua is a massive man with a hammer right hand but still hasn't fought anyone of note, been tested nor shown real boxing skill. Parker, after that cracking clash with Carlos Takam, has a real chance of unseating Joshua but a glaring hole in his preparation is a heavyweight of greater height and reach - precisely the scenario he will face against Joshua.
Parker's handlers Duco have another match in mind, possibly for October, and it's then a really big heavyweight could be lined up. He needs it. No matter what happens, as mandatory challenger for the IBF crown, Parker is pretty much certain to face a bigger man.
With the mandatory challenge now confirmed for between November and January, the only thing that could delay Parker-Joshua is a unification fight. With the Fury-Wladimir Klitschko re-match postponed, Joshua could yet decide on a unification bout against big US heavyweight and WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
However, the real money will come from Joshua fighting the winner of Fury-Klitschko - a matchmaker's heaven, with enough cash on offer to make Donald Trump look like a bag lady. Joshua might thus decide to continue knocking over "bums" while waiting for the big payday against Fury, while keeping an eye on the November-January window in which he has to fight Parker if no unification bout is agreed.
At the end of all these permutations is a basic fact: whoever ends up with the IBF belt has to fight Parker. Here's the giants he might face:
- Anthony Joshua - 1.98m, 106kg, 2.08m reach
- Deontay Wilder - 2.01m, 98kg, 2.11m reach
- Tyson Fury - 2.06m, 117kg, 2.16m reach
- Wladimir Klitschko - 1.98m, 112kg, 2.06m reach
Parker stands at 1.93m, 106kg, 1.93m reach. Haumono, is 40 - 1.88m, 111kg, 1.88m reach. If Parker loses a bout, he also loses the mandatory status he won from Takam. You get the picture.
Haumono means money coming in, mandatory status staying put.
But Parker needs to take on boxers with dimensions he will face in a title bid. Trainer Kevin Barry has said he wants someone of Joshua's size as a sparring partner - and promising Las Vegas-based stablemate Izu Ugonoh (1.96m, with a 2.13m reach) may well fit the bill. The great Lennox Lewis had the same reach exactly and built his career around a thudding jab and a canny defence, seen when he effectively neutered the challenge of David Tua.
But sparring does not equal the pressure of a bout with a bigger man pressing hard. Parker's game is not fighting on the inside as Mike Tyson did. A bout against a big man with an albatross wing span is preferable to the likes of Haumono.
Parker's performance against Takam revealed quite a bit. He can take a shot. His defensive movement was his best yet, swaying out of reach on many occasions, although he dropped his hands at times. His flurry in the eighth round, when he nearly had the tough Takam down, showed his handspeed and ability to throw telling combinations.
Some fans concluded his inability to KO Takam proved he doesn't have the power to take out the top guys. The Parker camp maintained their fighter had been over-trained, was carrying an elbow injury and was at about only 75 per cent.
In boxing you never know whether you are hearing the truth or whether the bird of paradise, to borrow the lyrics of an old song, has just flown up your nose. But that might explain Parker's surprising breathlessness about halfway through the Takam bout, when - mouth agape, dragging in the big ones - he looked as if he might lose before getting his second wind and getting back on the game plan.
You can also read too much into the supposed invincibility of a big man like Joshua. Michael Grant, 2.01m of imposing physical specimen and an amazing reach of 2.18m, was almost as hyped as Joshua is now but was destroyed by Lewis in their 2000 clash. Grant was never the same. One of his last fights was in 2013 when he lost to Takam (though Grant was then 40).
Joshua could indeed be one of the greats, but has yet to show more than a sixpack and a big right hand. Parker's chances are based on speed and ringcraft; Joshua has never faced a skilled heavyweight who can move and throw fast combinations from different angles.
Duco and Barry know what they're about but it'd be better if Parker was able to go into his title shot with at least one fight against a taller man, with power and reach that might trouble him.