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

Why the taxpayer should fund the Joseph Parker mega-fight

Ever since the news broke with the dawn on Friday, there has been rising debate among sports fans on where the Joseph Parker-Andy Ruiz fight for the WBO world heavyweight title will sit among the greatest sporting events in our history.

That alone should tell the Government that it will get a black eye from the public if it doesn't come to the party in helping Duco Events make the fight a success via Major Events funding.

In a category of a single day event of global significance, the December 10 fight could rightly claim to be right up the pecking order in terms of our history. Such a criteria eliminates events like the Rugby and Cricket World Cups, America's Cups, Commonwealth Games et al, and much of the argument that the event is being over-hyped.

Duco is often criticised for exactly that - over-hyping its events and Parker.

But the company is a tenacious one and has now actually achieved what many thought it couldn't - and that's to turn Parker into a legitimate contender in a revitalised heavyweight division and bring a world title fight to New Zealand.

Park for a moment the question of whether Parker could fill Eden Park or Mt Smart to capacity. The excitement the prospect of the fight has generated among the public shows recognition it is a one-off event that possibly will never happen again in New Zealand sport.

But there is an assumption that Duco has hit the jackpot and can pull this off by itself.

That is manifestly wrong. The costs in making the bout happen are eye-watering. ATEED, Auckland's events funding arm, has already recognised that and its chief executive has not hesitated in throwing its financial support into the ring.

But Major Events' support is needed too.

Duco is saying little about its application for Major Events funding but recognise its request could easily turn into political dynamite.

It need not, and should not.

There are plenty of events far more obscure than a world title fight that ATEED and Major Events fund with taxpayer and ratepayer dollars. They include an investment in events as obscure as surfing's annual Waterman event which gains an estimated half a million dollars from the two funding organisations.

Major Events is pumping $500,000 into the world youth sailing champs on Auckland's North Shore in December.

Mexico's Andy Ruiz. Photo / Supplied
Mexico's Andy Ruiz. Photo / Supplied

The annual golf tournament in Queenstown run by Michael Hill and strongly supported by the Prime Minister gains an annual funding grant of $800,000.

Duco won't say how much it is after from Major Events for a one-off event that will bring significant economic benefit to Auckland and New Zealand and would appear to tick all the important boxes from selling hotel rooms to showcasing New Zealand to a healthy global audience (one of the factors cited for the Government's support of the Michael Hill tournament despite golf purists' rejection of it as a significant event on golf's competition calendar).

Duco's Dean Lonergan and David Higgins, right, with New Zealand heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker. Photo / photosport.co.nz
Duco's Dean Lonergan and David Higgins, right, with New Zealand heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker. Photo / photosport.co.nz

But it's more than that.

Parker is a 24-year-old from south Auckland who has risen above the odds. No matter what happens from here, his story is remarkable. And for all its doubters, Duco is on the verge of achieving something historic in New Zealand sport. A bona fide world heavyweight championship fight hosted in New Zealand.

This is a company headed by Dean Lonergan, a rambunctious and relentless league-man turned businessman from West Auckland and David Higgins, another unlikely success story. Duco is another remarkable story in itself.

The Government has readily invested in the America's Cup before. But there is more to New Zealand than catering to an already well-heeled yachting and golfing communities.

Much of the growing fan support of Parker is that he reflects another side of New Zealand that is achieving equal and if not superior success.

The buzz that has enveloped New Zealand sports fans since news of the fight should be telling the Government something.

That something is: "Dip into our pocket to support this".

- 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 apcf03 at 10 Dec 2016 03:25:37 Processing Time: 618ms