Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Boxing: Joseph Parker's next fight called 'gutsy' by Joshua's camp

Anthony Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn has praised Joseph Parker's bravery in putting his mandatory IBF heavyweight position on the line against Russian Alexander Dimitrenko next Saturday and willingness to step into the ring against his undefeated fighter.

While Parker is favoured to retain his perfect record as a professional against the 2.01m Dimitrenko at Manukau's Vodafone Events Centre, a defeat would mean his dream of becoming a world title holder would suffer a big setback.

Most observers believe Parker's hand speed and ability to throw devastating combinations will overwhelm Dimitrenko, who is a good technician but has appeared susceptible to pressure in his two defeats. They are also qualities which would test Joshua to the fullest should the pair meet in Manchester in November or London in March.

However, Hearn, who will announce on Tuesday his card for Joshua's second title defence in Manchester on November 26 - a line-up which could feature Parker in the main event - said in the same interview that Parker's speed might be overstated.

"Don't worry about Joshua's speed," said Hearn.

"Joshua is just as fast as Joseph Parker. It's a great fight - two undefeated fighters, both with great speed, both with great power."

Recent comments from Hearn about Parker being the preferred opponent for Joshua in Manchester have increased the likelihood of the New Zealander challenging the powerful Englishman sooner rather than later. They appeared the result of frustration following stalled negotiations with Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, but they could also have been made to force the hand of Peter Fury, the father and trainer of English heavyweight Hughie, who recently said he had agreed in principle that his son would fight Joshua next, but that the money had not been agreed.

Hughie, cousin of WBO and WBA heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, would present less risk than Parker for Joshua, and would pave the way for a higher-profile clash between the pair in March.

In looking at Parker's next challenge against Dimitrenko, Hearn said: "I think it's a very gutsy move by Joseph Parker and his team. They are obviously very confident about his ability. When you've got a fighter like Anthony Joshua in front of you, many would go into their shell and say, 'I'm not even going to the gym until that fight is on'.

"What I like about Parker and his team is that they are actually looking to improve, they're looking to get the right preparation for Anthony Joshua and I think Dimitrenko is good preparation. He's very tall, he can punch as well. It's a very good fight to prepare for Joshua but risky at the same time. When you're the mandatory, that brings a little bit of added pressure. You've got to stay composed."

Dimitrenko has raised eyebrows recently due to his questioning of the judges' decision in awarding Parker a unanimous victory over Carlos Takam in May, but Hearn, like the judges, Takam and most observers, said there was little doubt about the result which earned the Kiwi his IBF mandatory position.

"In terms of the scoring, I believe Parker won the fight," Hearn said. "Takam failed to put the pressure on when he needed to, and he [Parker] won't have that problem with Anthony Joshua."

It underlines the value of home advantage, with Joshua enjoying a huge following in Britain.

However, Hearn put little store in that, saying: "At the end of the day, it's very easy to take the benefits of home advantage away. It's called landing a 10oz leather glove on someone's chin and knocking them out. If you are good enough, you will win anywhere."

Parker believes Dimitrenko has disrespected him with his Takam comments but there is unlikely to be a shortage of respect when Parker and Joshua meet.

"It comes down to how many people are willing to step into the ring with Anthony Joshua, and I can tell you, not many are," Hearn said. "Joseph Parker will. He's got the balls to do it."

- NZ Herald

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