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

Boxing: History man Joseph Parker carries hopes of a nation

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

"History", is the promoters' tagline for the Joseph Parker v Andy Ruiz Jr world heavyweight title fight at Auckland's Vector Arena, and it's an apt one.

Parker, 24, undefeated and near the top of his game, is unlikely to feature in a bout this big in New Zealand again. This is it, folks. Win, and he will defend his title in London or Las Vegas, Manchester, or Macau. Lose, and he has to re-build his career knowing he probably won't get this opportunity again.

It is the first time a recognised world title fight has been held here. Should Parker win, he will become the first New Zealand-born heavyweight champion of the world. If Ruiz Jr does, he will be Mexico's first.

There's another factor. As of today there are 32 days before the fight, which will make this one of the shortest build-ups ever to a title bout and which makes Duco's decision to hold it here following their knockbacks from central and local government all the riskier.

There are tickets to sell and a pay per view package (price yet to be confirmed but at least $50) to promote.

Due to the fighters' purses, sanctioning fees for the WBO, and other associated costs including an undercard featuring Parker's stablemate Izu Ugonoh and top Australian welterweight Jeff Horn, Duco need to find at least $4million to make it pay.

By way of comparison, Parker's most significant professional fight to date was against Carlos Takam and cost $2.2m to put on. They are in a deep financial hole, but are confident they can make it work in order to give Parker the best possible chance.

The short time-frame will make the fight all the more intriguing to most boxing fans and is likely to provide its own, unique, momentum. Duco's chief executive Martin Snedden, the man who had over four years to direct preparations for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, certainly hopes so.

With his company's owners Dean Lonergan and David Higgins away looking for more broadcast partners overseas, it was left to Snedden to front the media yesterday and he was quickly in conciliatory mode after the funding saga of recent days which has become increasingly nasty thanks to the grandstanding by some politicians.

For now, Duco, have put that behind them. Ateed dropped a bombshell when pulling support from the event late on Thursday, but will continue to be valuable partners for the company, who put on such big events in Auckland as the NRL Nines.

"We've got zero angst about where that ended up," Snedden said. "We understand that there's a political game around this stuff and so our position is we're moving on, there's no hard feelings."

Asked, though, whether this proved the Government was right when it said the fight could happen without its support, Snedden replied: "That's rubbish. When we started out on this commercial route only 35 days ago we had no commercial contracts in place. We didn't know what would happen. We trusted our loyal sponsors and supporters but we were asking a lot of them... but we've hit a threshold in terms of risk assessment where we are saying that we're prepared to go for this."

Snedden, a former New Zealand international cricket player, said he had no doubt what the event could produce in terms of atmosphere.

"I've been down to Vector about four times in the last couple of weeks and you stand in the middle of the arena and you just imagine what it's like with a full house of 10,000 people that have such a high level of anticipation.

"When we had the Takam fight at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau in May, the atmosphere from the time Joseph walked out was something I've rarely experienced in a very long international sporting career."

Shot at the title:
* Vector Arena (capacity 10,000), December 10
* Tickets from Ticketmaster go on sale from Thursday, priced from $99
* Pay per view prices yet to be set - but likely to be at least $50

- NZ Herald

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