English boxer Hughie Fury has done WBO champion Joseph Parker far more harm by pulling out of their fight than if he'd gone through with it.

Fury, acne scars, alleged back injury, connection with oddball cousin Tyson Fury and all, was an entrée to the lucrative British heavyweight scene - the new focal point of world heavyweight boxing.

Beat Fury - and Parker was favoured - and enough British eyebrows would have been raised to stimulate further fights against British heavyweights like David Haye, Tony Bellew, Dereck Chisora, Dillian Whyte and David Price; then, possibly, a showdown with Anthony Joshua.

Joshua's fight tomorrow morning against former champ Wladimir Klitschko may re-shape that landscape, particularly if Klitschko wins the IBF, WBA and IBO crowns.


But Parker's hastily arranged fight on Saturday against "Bigfoot" (Romanian Razvan Cojanu) calls to mind the Damon Runyon tale The Big Umbrella - a big umbrella being Runyonese for a boxer who folds up.

In the fictional tale, a boxer called Jonas is being carefully managed by one Spider McCoy. He lines Jonas up against a long list of fighters for whom the future does not include winning.

Runyon's unmistakeable argot, springing from the Prohibition era of gangsters and the dubious denizens of Broadway at the time, put it this way: "...Spider does not tell Jonas these contests are dipsydoos and Jonas thinks he really is belting out these porterhouses and, as he is getting pretty nice money for the work, he feels very well indeed.

Anybody will tell you it helps build up a young fighter's confidence to let him see a few people take naps in front of him as he is coming along, though Jonas is slightly bewildered the night at the Sun Casino when a generally very reliable waterboy by the name of Charley Drunckley misses his cue and falls down before Jonas can hit him.

"The boxing commission is somewhat bewildered, too, and asks a few questions that nobody tries to answer, and Spider McCoy explains to Jonas that he hits so fast he cannot notice his punches landing himself, but even then Jonas continues to look somewhat bewildered."

Boxing fans may recognise the hit-so-fast-you-can't see-it line; Muhammad Ali used it 30-odd years later when he dispatched Sonny Liston with a punch most struggled to see.

Cojanu's list of unknown opponents is even more obscure than Fury's, full of the kind of boxers Runyon once described as: "...a sausage who scarcely knows how to hold his hands up."

There's the big lose-lose for Parker. If he doesn't see Razvan off in an ambulance holding his Cojanus, something is very wrong. Win, and Parker is just folding an umbrella. Yet the great uncertainty of boxing means Parker could still rush into a right hand with his chin for an unscheduled canvas inspection.

Fury at least would have been a door opener. Duco have done an excellent job of finding Parker better foes, working him up the ladder of credibility.

He's been called out by WBC champion Deontay Wilder and by Dominic Breazeale - the 6ft 7in American who did passably well before Joshua sat him down in their title clash.

Breazeale knocked out Parker's promising stablemate, Izu Ugonoh, in February.

Breazeale would have been a far better opponent and could have been marketed as a grudge match and revenge for Ugonoh - but maybe Parker and Duco were uncomfortable.

The money may not have been right, Breazeale apparently wanted different dates, Parker had been training for Fury, not the American, and it must be said Breazeale (though he too has fought no one of note except for Joshua) shaped as much more of a threat than Cojanu.

So Parker and his connections have been forced to tread water by Fury's withdrawal; Parker's next step will be important, part of a journey which may reveal if he is on course for a reunification bout or whether the plan is to keep milking the WBO championship cow.

Meanwhile Fury, still the mandatory challenger and thus guaranteed a title bout, claims a previously undisclosed injury. His Daily Mirror column on April 21: "I feel 100 per cent better than my previous fights. I'm bigger, stronger, and more powerful. I'm a different fighter and Parker won't know what's coming."

On April 23, also in the Mirror: "Hughie has been declared medically unfit to box following a medical assessment. He has suffered an injury to his lower back which has been a serious issue for the last three weeks that has left him unable to train to his full capacity."

One of those two statements may have flirted with credibility as it rushed towards disbelief.

Paradoxically, Parker suffers most in the credibility stakes. Some in the media have taken to pronouncing him a second-tier champion not able to foot it with the really big boys like Joshua, Klitschko and Wilder, an outside fighter who has to go inside against the 2m giants.

We'll see. He has speed and technical skills; they can take you a long way. Hopefully, along that way, he gets the chance to knock the snot out of Hughie Fury.