Joseph Parker, meet Adalaide Byrd.

If the controversial judge has not been front and centre of conversations in the Parker camp this week, she should have been.

Many pundits already believe Team Parker are taking too big a risk by pairing the undefeated heavyweight with a potentially tricky opponent, Hughie Fury, on the challenger's home turf.

Perhaps in boxing home advantage shouldn't count for much, but for a whole range of reasons it does, first and foremost because of the phenomenon known simply as "hometown calls".


You don't have to go too far back to find one that worked for Parker, with many believing that Andy Ruiz Jr had earned done enough to earn at least a draw when they fought for the vacant WBO belt in Auckland.

That decision - which had Parker winning 115-113 on two scorecards while judge Salven Lagumbay had it 114-114 a draw - had nothing on the weekend gone, however, when Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin toed the line in Sin City and delivered one of the great middleweight fights in modern history.

Nobody's talking about that, however. All they're talking about is Byrd's card, which defied every semblance of common sense by giving the fight to Alvarez. That alone was a head-scratcher, but the fact she awarded the fight to the Mexican over the Kazakh in an 118-110 rout burst the seams of boxing's credibility once more.

Golovkin can ease his worried mind with the prospect of a rematch that will earn him many millions but Parker doesn't have that luxury.

Despite his unbeaten record and untarnished reputation, Parker lives, in all honesty, on the fringes of the global heavyweight conversation. Most of the attention has centred on British golden boy Anthony Joshua and unbeaten American Deontay Wilder.

A loss in his first fight in front of a British audience - who despite the best/worst efforts of promoters have not warmed to this match-up - would represent a giant leap backwards for Parker.

If all that is not enough to cause concern look no further than David Higgins' bizarre press conference entry to see exactly what is at stake. Not only is Parker fighting for his future but potentially that of promotions company Duco Events. What else could explain his unhinged intervention at a pre-fight press call?

Duco are claiming victory this morning because the British Boxing Board of Control has removed supposedly controversial referee Terry O'Connor from the fight, which seems a fairly obvious and hamfisted attempt to portray Higgins' outburst as method rather than madness. O'Connor has instead been appointed a judge where, if he is as malevolent a presence as Duco believe, he is in position to cause more damage (please again refer to Byrd, Adalaide).

Boxing is a sport where its athletes literally put everything on the line. That repulses and attracts people in equal measure, but their is nothing admirable about their sacrifice for your viewing pleasure when a judge like Byrd or a dodgy promoter conspires to render their efforts moot.

The history of the fight game is littered with too many cautionary tales to allow us to think that good old honest Joe Parker will be immune these forces.

If you're a Parker fan and believe in the presence of an omnibenevolent god, pray for a knockout. If Byrd has reminded us of anything, it's that sin often resides in a scorecard.


So, that Beauden Barrett form crisis lasted all of a week.

Even by today's standards, the calls for his demotion or devolution from No 10 to 15 seemed alarmist.

Beauden Barrett remembers how to play rugby, to the great relief of everybody. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Beauden Barrett remembers how to play rugby, to the great relief of everybody. Photo / Brett Phibbs

By my reckoning, he was shaded only by Brodie Retallick for the most influential player in the Bledisloe Cup-clinching test in Dunedin and those roles were probably reversed at Albany on Saturday.

Sandwiched between those two excellent tests was an ordinary performance in home territory against Argentina, an exercise in first-five futility made worse by one of his all-too-frequent bad days off the tee.

(You'll get no argument from me that Barrett is a below-replacement-level international goalkicker. In fact, I said so here. His seven from eight performance on Saturday does not alter that fact.)

In terms of playing the pivotal role of first five-eighth, Barrett is just about as good as there has ever been. He plays close to the line - too close sometimes - and defends in the line. He can play the structured game, has a grab-bag of kicks long and short and excellent catch-and-pass fundamentals.

He also has blinding pace and an almost extra-terrestrial ability to know exactly what to do to convert turnover ball to points. Even his rare bad days are never quiet days.

In a professional sporting world that is increasingly homogenous and over-coached, Barrett is that rare thing: a genius that can play on- and off-script.

That might not suit every coach or team in the world, but thank your lucky undies it suits the All Blacks.


Call me a cynic, but it was just weird watching the cameras pan to New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew being all chummy with his Sky counterpart John Fellet. In terms of cheese, it was a right up there with the staged shots of Clive Woodward and Gavin Henson taking a walk together at training in 2005, a move that presaged the Welshman's controversial omission from the first test.


It might just be that the best team in the Mitre 10 Cup has no chance of winning it.

Wellington's 60-14 humiliation of Premiership favourites Canterbury was a result few saw coming. Add to that a 16-point thumping of Taranaki, who will be expected to make the Premiership semifinals and you have a team clearly out of their depth - in a good way - in the Championship.

It does raise questions about the competition's format and whether it is time to return to a single division, semi-professional league. To squeeze it into its current window, that will again raise the spectre of a couple of mergers or downgrading of at least two unions to make a 12-team competition.

That didn't go so well last time it was mooted.


This first-person piece from AFL player Alex Fasolo on website PlayersVoice is an important read.

This is a powerful statement on why the NFL is dead, but it just doesn't know it yet.