Joseph Parker's promoter David Higgins has defended his conduct which led to him being ejected by security from a press conference for his fighter's world heavyweight title defence against Hughie Fury, saying he was just trying to make a point.

The point - about the need for a neutral referee rather than Englishman Terry O'Connor - has certainly been made, with Marcus McDonnell, who had been scheduled to be one of the three judges, now the third man in the ring at the Manchester Arena.

While McDonnell is also an Englishman, Higgins is happy with the compromise, and his actions and results won praise from former heavyweight Frans Botha, a man who also caused a stir at yesterday's press conference at a posh London hotel.

Botha, on a promotional tour with Higgins' company Duco, was also ejected and said today: "If I was Joseph Parker I would be delighted to have a man stand up for me like David Higgins did for his fighter. In my boxing career I had to basically stand up for myself.


"David was right to stand up for his fighter and make it neutral.

"The referee plays a huge part in a fight. He can disqualify a fighter. He can give him warnings unnecessarily and obstruct him from fighting his way."

Higgins, vastly cooler than he was 24 hours earlier, said: "I wasn't fired up. I thought Peter Fury [Hughie's father and trainer] was fired up, though. I was just making the point that we agreed on mutual officials and the referee is not neutral and my job is to stick up for Joseph Parker and make it known. He got pretty angry - I think I got under his skin.

Higgins told the Herald he also wanted to respond to recent criticism from Sir Bob Jones, saying: "Bob said the fight wouldn't happen because they wouldn't put the money up, but the money is in our lawyer's bank account. The referee is the right man for the job, so we've ticked that box, and we also have people talking about the fight."

For his part, Parker, who appeared showed power and exquisite timing when training in front of the New Zealand media today, wasn't bothered. He said Higgins' actions were relatively "tame" as far as professional boxing was concerned, but added: "He tried to prove a point. It might not have been the best way to go about it, but he definitely proved a point and everyone heard it."

Botha fought Parker in 2013, a year after the now 25-year-old went professional, and was knocked out in the second round by a stunning combination from the New Zealander, a result which showed he was a genuine force to be reckoned with in the paid ranks.

At the time Botha, who won the IBF world title by beating Axel Schultz before being stripped of the belt for failing a drugs test, had lost only nine times in 60 professional fights.

Before the bout in Auckland, Botha took great pleasure in calling Parker "Baby Joseph", but he said today: "He's not Baby Joseph any more - he's a big man, a good fighter, a champion. You're going to see an exciting fight.

"Muhammad Ali was always my idol. But Parker has got the ability of a young Ali - speed. Speed is power and Joseph Parker has speed. That's his biggest attribute.

"The punch that knocks you out is the punch you don't see. When I fought Joseph that's what happened.

"With his speed anything is possible."

Parker v Fury at Manchester Arena will be shown in New Zealand live on Sky Arena from 8am on Sunday for $39.95.