Paul Lewis: Boxing needed four-way fight-off

By Paul Lewis

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

Joseph Parker fans may not agree but it's a shame the WBO four-way fight-off for the title vacated by Tyson Fury couldn't take place.

Parker's bout with Andy Ruiz is a fast-track opportunity to the WBO title for the South Auckland boxer and to a lucrative period when the new champ can pick his defences after taking on the mandatory challenger - said to be British heavyweight David Haye.

But, with all due respect to the burgeoning talents of Parker and Ruiz, their clash seems lesser in stature when compared to an elimination series between the winner of IBF champ Anthony Joshua and former multiple titleholder Wladimir Klitschko on one side, with Parker-Ruiz on the other. Boxing's hideous plethora of 'world titles' meant the four-way would at least have invested matters with a decent measure of true world status.

Context time: if Parker beats Ruiz, he's the world champion, right? Well, no. It means he will be a world champion.

'World champion' means only you are one of the best four in the world; sometimes not even that, depending on the strength of challengers in competing boxing bodies. There is only one real world champion, an "undisputed" champ (the last was Lennox Lewis in 2004) - meaning he has all four of the belts bestowed by mainstream organisations the WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF. There is a fifth, the IBO, but the previous four are the most credible.

Boxing latterly invented "interim" titles and "super" champions, meaningless manoeuvres designed mostly to bring in more revenue by sanctioning 'title' fights and relying on the public being unable to distinguish these from real achievements.

That kind of flim-flam only harms the sport and, while a Parker-Ruiz fight will be hugely passionate (Parker would be the first homegrown New Zealand heavyweight to hold a world title; Ruiz the first Mexican), neither is yet recognised as top tier - although such status may not be far away.

Parker has world-class handspeed and ability to put together the holy grail of boxing - combination punches, the accurate high-speed delivery of which can dispose of an opponent every bit as efficiently as a king hit. He has science, real character, a bit of nasty in the ring and is a well-mannered, grounded 24-year-old out of it, with an easy sense of humour plus intelligence which serves him well in this demanding sport. We have yet to see if he can take a big punch.

However, any world title worthy of the, uh, title surely has to involve a restored Fury, Joshua, Klitschko, current WBC champion Deontay Wilder, Russia's Alexander Povetkin, Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev, Parker and perhaps the most feared heavyweight of all, Cuban Luis Ortiz.

Never heard of him? That's because he is possibly the best mix of power and technique in the world and has been little-seen on the world stage as a result. Few titleholders want to take him on. He has just been picked up by Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn, meaning he will now likely be seen more on the world stage. He has a bout with little-known American Malik Scott next month before heading into the mix to find the next WBA champion (Ortiz, 37, is the No 1 challenger there but, ludicrously, is not ranked in the top 10 by the WBC, IBF or WBO).

Such is boxing politics. But you can see why the WBO wanted to break their own rules by arranging the four-way box-off. It would have been more compelling than a straight Parker-Ruiz bout. However, if blame has to be laid anywhere, it is probably with Klitschko, now 40 and who has apparently opted not to fight Joshua, settling for a much easier bout against Australian heavyweight Lucas Browne. He has only a puncher's chance against the big Ukrainian unless Klitschko duplicates his lame-ass display in that giant, arm-waving, pitter-pat contest with Fury.

It's boxing's Achilles heel - instead of the best facing the best, we could wind up with four belts held by four individuals, all seeking their own career path and fat purses, with an undisputed champ some way off.

Still, Parker-Ruiz will be dead interesting even if 'world title' has to be placed in some perspective; Parker is young enough that a loss now or later will not derail his career.

If he wins the WBO crown, Parker will be in the thick of moves towards an undisputed title if/when he successfully defends his title in the UK against the dangerous Haye whose only loss (apart from one early-career setback) came in his title bid against Klitschko.

And let's face it, if Parker and his undoubted talent are to make a truly global impact, we want him to do so against the big boys rather than settle for a parade of what the great Joe Louis's team used to call "bums of the month".

Don't we?

- 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
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 24 Apr 2017 11:33:17 Processing Time: 852ms