These are tricky times for Joseph Parker.

The dethroned WBO heavyweight boxing champion is re-building after back-to-back losses to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte – and even his subsequent emphatic win over little-known Alexander Flores did him no favours.

As his promoter David Higgins puts it, Parker lost too well. Joshua didn't really hurt him and Parker became the first to take the giant Brit the distance. Whyte did hurt him – once with a head clash – by knocking Parker down for the first time in his career but Parker came roaring back with his own knockdown. Top UK boxing writer Steve Bunce was moved to muse that Parker was unlucky not to earn a draw in that fight.

Then a down and dirty Parker, responding to criticism about too much Mr Nice Guy against Whyte, floored Flores in the third round. Flores and his camp complained of low blows as Parker ramped up the aggression.


All this makes Parker a difficult sell to other fighters. "Losing too well" means the match-makers are entirely aware that Parker is dangerous as they approach the ticklish art of setting their man against someone they think they can beat.

Joseph Parker's promoter David Higgins. Photo / Getty
Joseph Parker's promoter David Higgins. Photo / Getty

Only the WBC now rank Parker in the top 15 heavyweights in the world, but not the WBA, WBO and IBF. Tactically, if he's not in the top 15, his appeal is correspondingly less as a vehicle for his opponents to get to the top – even though everyone knows most rankings are about as reliable as a chocolate kettle.

The trainers and promoters know the truth. Parker is in that grey area of not-quite-a champ but not a "tomato can" (as the Americans say) either. For boxers jostling for a title shot, Parker is a risky alternative, maybe best avoided.

It's the same for Parker himself. As he builds up towards another title shot, he must find opponents who will not cause him to slip on the slow climb up the ladder.

But he needs credibility too and that balance will be causing headaches for Higgins. The most likely options are for a fight in New Zealand or the UK – where Parker, in spite of the two losses, has a good reputation as a pay-per-view drawcard.

To bring a credible fighter to New Zealand, where they face the possibility of a hometown decision, will cost more; Higgins will likely have to offer more of the purse – danger money – to the other guy, thereby reducing Parker's cut.

That's why Lucas Browne, the big scary-looking Australian heavyweight, may appeal. Browne is not a top drawer pro and will shortly be 40. He still looks the part (1.96m and heavily tattooed) though Whyte horrendously KOed him in their bout last year.

Joseph Parker and Alexander Flores exchange punches during the heavy weight bout. Photo / Getty
Joseph Parker and Alexander Flores exchange punches during the heavy weight bout. Photo / Getty

That was Browne's first defeat in 28 fights. His record includes wins over former WBA heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev and the highly-performed James Toney – though Toney, naturally a cruiserweight, was 45 and well past his best when Browne fought him. Browne sent Chagaev, then 38, into retirement when he TKOed him two years ago.


Browne is also attached to Britain's Matchroom boxing stable – meaning a fight in New Zealand can be broadcast to the UK as well as grabbing a trans-Tasman audience.

One thing Parker has going for him is that there is much excitement around the various permutations of Joshua, the astonishing Tyson Fury and WBA champion Deontay Wilder…but few other genuinely strong contenders.

Fury has ignited the division with his remarkable draw with Wilder (most thought he won) and their re-match in April (if it comes off) and the subsequent bout with Joshua to find an undisputed champion will attract huge interest. Joshua, meantime, is considering fighting undefeated, 140kg US heavyweight Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller – though Miller seems too slow to seriously bother him.

If Parker is to earn another title shot, he'll need opponents with more credentials than Browne. That's particularly so with former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis – the last undisputed champion – casting doubt on Parker and the likes of Whyte, tough Cuban Luis Ortiz, and Americans Dominic Breazeale and Bryant Jennings, calling them "still dangerous" but too small to trouble giants like Joshua, Fury and Wilder.

Whyte has an obvious claim but previous strong contenders like Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin (Russia) are both coming up 40, their stars dimmed by knockout defeats at the hands of Wilder and Joshua respectively.

There are few other legitimate US contenders and the global list of up and comers is short – German-Turk fighter Agit Kabayel, aggressive Polish heavyweight Adam Kownacki, while talented Ukrainian cruiserweight Aleksander Usyk may jump up a weight division this year (though he may be a match many will avoid). There is also tough Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev who recently beat Hughie Fury on the comeback trail after previously being knocked out by Wladimir Klitschko in his 2014 title bout.

So Parker's time will come again only if he can find and beat the right opponents to manoeuvre himself into position. That's why the next two or three bouts are especially delicate for Parker and Higgins.

They need to choose well.