Hughie Fury chickened out. Lost his bottle.

Somewhere along the line the young British fighter decided Joseph Parker would pummel him. He couldn't face the long trip to nowhere, the inevitable humiliation. The big talk was small talk. Maybe someone decided a defeat in Auckland would not be good for business.

That's the only conclusion I can reach, after the sad and dramatic cancellation of Fury's tilt at the WBO heavyweight title against Parker in Auckland, scheduled for just under a fortnight. Massive boxing occasions are few and far between in New Zealand. A lot of people were really looking forward to this.

Duco Events, who promote Parker, are ill-equipped to deal with the realities of world boxing, as I've said previously.

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It's not their fault, but this ain't no Kiwi charity event. This is a ring full of sharks, dark deals, connections, and very little honour. Ultimately, it's about wheeler dealers making money. Duco's David Higgins may need to call in some experienced help.

But it's still a very sad day in the career of Parker, because it was probably his last chance to fight a reasonable name in front of a home crowd. Parker is a man of honour, who deserves better. He is a real deal athlete. Cancellation of the fight further damages boxing's reputation, if that is possible, and the credibility of the WBO belt and thus Parker's achievements so far.

Talk about hot air.

"I'm raring to go," Fury said in a Mirror column a few days ago.

"I'm bigger, stronger, and more powerful. In fact, I'm a different fighter and Parker won't know what's coming. I've watched a few of his fights and I'm confident we have the game plan to beat him - but I can't reveal it here!"

Not turning up is certainly a foolproof plan when it comes to not losing. Genius in fact.
Camp Fury should have already been in town, if they were the serious.

When I first read that Parker was labelling Fury as scared, it seemed like classic boxing talk, and the south Aucklander was obviously trying to draw Fury into a fight that was hanging by a thread.

But he's right. No doubt we'll get some kind of injury story. But Fury has been out of the ring for too long. Training may not have been going well. He was running scared, and now he's run away. There has been a long and mildly interesting, if confusing, build up. It has led to less than zero.

I feel for Parker, trainer Kevin Barry and Duco. Even by boxing's crazy standards, this is a shocker.

Why can't union and league get together about schedules. Last weekend, the Warriors played Canberra at exactly the same time the Blues were taking on the Hurricanes. This weekend, there was no game involving the Auckland-based NRL and Super Rugby teams.

Can't resist talking about Beauden Barrett again, and his utterly sensational form spells trouble for the Lions in a very specific way.

Warren Gatland will be asking for trouble if he tries to play a power-packed midfield in line with what is termed Warren-ball. The Lions will need speed, nous and dexterity to cope with Barrett sweeping at them.

He was stunning again in the Hurricanes' win over the Brumbies and heavily involved in the try scoring, in a variety of ways.

It's hard to judge how good the Hurricanes really are, because Barrett is so influential. But Chris Boyd and the other coaches deserve the highest praise for unleashing perhaps the most brilliant back the game has ever seen. It's difficult to believe the Lions can live with the All Blacks if Barrett is out there.