New Zealand heavyweight Joseph Parker is set to become the first high-profile boxer to reignite his career post-Covid19 – and the fight could take place in a tent.
Parker's ambitious plan to restart boxing was announced today and like all good ringmasters it was touted as a promotion like nothing seen before.
The former WBO heavyweight world champion and his manager David Higgins have been given the all-clear by promoters Matchroom to try to stage the first professional, globally broadcast boxing card following the pandemic.
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The event could be staged as early as August, Higgins said.
The most likely opponents for Parker are Australians Lucas 'Big Daddy' Browne who has previously been talked up as a potential opponent, or his countryman Dempsey McKean, a southpaw who has won his first 18 fights.
Higgins said they had been in "loose talks" with Browne's camp but the unbeaten and ambitious McKean had actually approached them to be involved.
Junior Fa would undoubtedly be the most saleable opponent and has not been ruled out, but Higgins said they haven't been able to get close to a consensus on the purse to make that fight happen.
"Joseph will be taking a lot less than he would usually demand for this fight but he's a realist," Higgins said. "He's coming off three good wins and is in great shape and wants to fight again. Fighters want to fight."
It is not the opponent that is of most interest on this occasion however, as it is the occasion itself.
Higgins wants to make history and in the process hopefully kick-start the events sector again. Never known for thinking small, he believes it could be a boon for the country just when it needs it the most.
"We're obviously living in an apocalyptic time for the events industry," he said. "Events are very tricky to put on, even at lockdown level two where you're not allowed gatherings of more than 100 people.
"At Duco I've had to let about a quarter of my staff go and the rest are on reduced wages. We have two choices: we can batten down the hatches and ride it out, or we can be bold and innovative."
Higgins prefers the latter choice so he has been in consultation about staging a "Transtasman bubble" series of fights, with Parker the headline act. Matchroom CEO Frank Smith this morning gave him the all-clear to progress the idea beyond the concept stage.
"I see it as an exciting chance to make history, "Higgins said, "but the safety aspect will obviously be paramount in our thinking."
The promoter said the fact there would be only 100 people on site, including broadcasters and staff, actually created opportunities for staging a unique event.
"We could stage it in a marquee on somebody's lawn if they want to 'buy' the fight," he said, "or we could have it in the foyer of a museum or another iconic building.
"There will be logistics to work through in terms of social distancing and what that means for catering and such but I envisage a scenario where you have 60 paying guests at an once-in-a-lifetime event."
Higgins said there was an element of realism required for the event to succeed. The sponsorship market will be tough but on the other hand broadcasters are crying out for sports content, which is why Matchroom is keen for the concept to work.
Higgins said he could see a global audience of close to a billion if New Zealand was first to market with this concept.
By definition, the event would be exclusive.
"With fewer tickets than usual, there would obviously be a premium price. You can't get around that."
Asked about the possibly jarring sight of the wealthy gathering for a card of fights when thousands have lost jobs and the economy is tanking, Higgins was unrepentant.
"There will be critics but the simple fact is this will help keep people in jobs.
"At some point we have to start the economy again. The events industry is important to this country and has a large supply chain that affects a lot of people. We want to be a part of boosting that as well as providing hope and entertainment.
"The upsides of this would far outweigh any downsides."
Higgins added there would be a significant charity element to the evening, with money raised for The Rising Foundation, which works with at-risk youth across the country, and in particular Parker's South Auckland neighbourhoods.