Joseph Parker's promoters Duco Events are in the middle of a divorce, with the WBO world heavyweight champion effectively caught in a million-dollar-plus custody battle.

The stakes are high, which is why neither of the co-directors David Higgins and Dean Lonergan, both of whom are understood to have engaged legal representation, are willing to talk.

Higgins and Lonergan have sunk millions of dollars into Kiwi Parker's career since he turned professional in 2012, and, just as he is on the brink of several extremely lucrative fights in the United Kingdom, the company is coming apart at the seams.

The Herald understands that both Higgins and Lonergan have agreed they can no longer work together, that the feelings are mutual, and that the short-term future of Parker remains up in the air.

Advertisement

Effectively, the company, whose interests include No2-ranked welterweight boxer Jeff Horn, the NRL Nines, and Brisbane Global Rugby 10s, is being carved up, a state of affairs likely to lead, at least, to a contract re-negotiation for Parker, whose deal with Duco expires next year.

After revealing the extent of the issues yesterday, the Herald again contacted Higgins and Lonergan, now based in Australia, but neither were willing to comment.

Parker, who defended his world championship belt in a unanimous points victory over Razvan Cojanu in Manukau on Saturday, could be caught in a difficult position.

He spoke to the Herald the day after the tougher than expected first defence of his title against Cojanu and spoke of undisclosed distractions behind the scenes, and he will feel enormous loyalty to both Higgins and Lonergan, who have done well to get the 25-year-old where he is today.

The key, obviously, has been Parker's winning record, but the Kiwi pair have been quick to take advantage of the fast-changing global heavyweight scene over the recent 18 months.

Parker, who is especially close to Higgins, was installed as the mandatory challenger to Anthony Joshua's IBF world title last year, and rather sit back and wait as the Englishman's connections instead entered negotiations with Wladimir Klitschko, Duco targeted the WBO world title, which Parker won against Andy Ruiz Jr in Auckland last December.

That, fight, the biggest held in New Zealand, was done with the assistance of veteran American promoter Bob Arum, Ruiz's handler and a man who has entered into a financial agreement with Duco in terms of pushing Parker's fights in the United States and South America.

It's possible that Arum, who splits his time between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, could have an important part to play in Parker's future.

Duco's negotiations with Arum, who has close connections with the WBO, were carried out while maintaining good relations with Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn, a key point because the Englishman is the promoter of Liverpudlian Tony Bellew, a possible next opponent for Parker in what would be a million-dollar-plus pay-day for the South Aucklander.

Duco Events have offices in Auckland and Melbourne and, apart from their big-ticket promotions of Parker, Australian Horn, who fights WBO champion Manny Pacquiao in Brisbane on July 2, and their rugby tournaments, the company runs guest speaker evenings and other events.

Financially they have had to work for every dollar in terms of Parker's career. Denied New Zealand government support, they have instead been assisted by the Samoan government and have done well to maintain that relationship.

Now, though, there is an acceptance from all parties, including Parker, that the New Zealand market has been exhausted and that the boxer's future belongs overseas. The big question is: who will be promoting him?