Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Boxing: Ruiz Jr confident but Parker fight in doubt

New Zealand heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker. Photo / Photosport
New Zealand heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker. Photo / Photosport

Andy Ruiz Junior has expressed supreme confidence in his ability to beat Kiwi Joseph Parker in a potential world title fight in Auckland in December.

However, in a potential blow to Parker's hopes and those of his supporters in New Zealand and further afield, the bout will remain in doubt until after the World Boxing Organisation's five-day convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which starts tomorrow night.

Despite the promoters of both Parker and Ruiz Jr all but agreeing terms, the fight will not go ahead if the WBO decide to make it an elimination bout for the organisation's heavyweight title.

Parker, No1 with the WBO, should have first rights to challenge for the title in the wake of Tyson Fury's decision to step away from boxing due to health reasons, but the organisation has raised the spectre of a four-way box-off, with Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko the other pair in the mix.

WBO vice-president John Duggan repeated a line given recently by president Francisco Varcarcel when he told Radio Live today: "We have to listen to all parties in order to get clarity on the best way to approach a resolution of the championship.

"It's great that Joseph and Andy have agreed to meet. If you ask my opinion, that should be an eliminator before a box-off if both of them are willing to commit to fight the winner of the other end of that."

Duggan added: "That's an issue which will probably be the most important subject at our convention this year."

Parker's promoter Dean Lonergan and Ruiz Jr's Bob Arum, a high-profile promoter from Top Rank, have made it clear that the fight won't go ahead if it isn't for the title. Both will attend the WBO convention. "You don't go into this business expecting everything to be easy," Lonergan said today. "We've sided with the biggest promoter in the world."

Lonergan will point to the fact that Parker has put his WBO oriental belt on the line in 10 of his 12 fights since he took it off Brian Minto two years ago - over and above what is required - plus the fact that the WBO's own rules dictate that the No1 contender must fight the next ranked contender - in this case Klitschko - in the event the title is vacated.

Klitschko is deep in negotiations for a fight against IBF champion Joshua, so is likely to be unavailable in the short term.

If the WBO do decide on a four-way box-off, Parker, the mandatory challenger for the IBF title, will simply wait to fight the winner of the Klitschko v Joshua bout - and probably in March next year.

That would be a mega-fight for Parker, a world title unification bout, but it would deny his fans the chance to watch him fight for a title in his own backyard.

A scrap against 27-year-old Ruiz Jr is almost guaranteed to be exciting going by the undefeated Mexican-American's style and recent comments.

The pair sparred together in Las Vegas three years ago, with Ruiz Jr initially getting the better of Parker, 24, who said recently his mouth was so sore he couldn't eat for days afterwards.

"I was kind of surprised [to hear that] because it didn't seem like he was really hurt in the sparring," Ruiz Jr said. "The first time we sparred there were some good exchanges. He's pretty fast and he likes to throw combinations as well. We were both exchanging and I guess I got there first. I kind of dazed him. I rocked him pretty good.

"In his last fight [against Alexander Dimitrenko] he beat this guy fast. But from his other fights I don't think he looked that good. My pressure and the speed of working the body and head at the same time - I think... I can do what I did in sparring.

"This is the best fight I could have for the world title."

Ruiz Jr talked about fighting in Auckland on December 27, but Parker's promoters Duco Events will be pushing for a bout earlier in the month.

- NZ Herald

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