Joseph Parker starts playing with the big boys on Saturday when he fights giant Ukrainian Alexander Dimitrenko - and one of the best things he's got going for him is a lack of respect from European boxing.

Former world featherweight champion, the highly regarded Barry McGuigan, wrote in his Daily Mirror column last month about the need for British IBF world heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua to fight better opponents: "Parker can punch but he is vulnerable and laboured to a points win in his eliminator against Carlos Takam in May. Doubtless, he will go the same way as the others but that won't represent progress. Joshua needs to get better and that won't happen fighting the Dominic Breazeales and Joseph Parkers of this world."

David Price, the 2.03m Englishman and Parker's scheduled opponent on the undercard for Joshua's next bout against tough Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev on November 26 (we should know this week if the bout is on), said: "Parker's...young, has fast hands but I do believe I'll knock him out. I don't think he's been hit properly yet and, obviously, power is my main asset. If Parker's fighting Dimitrenko and then me in 6-8 weeks, that's a demanding schedule. Those training camps will take it out of you."

Dimitrenko got in on the act too: "In his fight against Carlos Takam, he lost - he really did lose it - but he was named the winner...I have seen in his eyes that he is not ready yet."


All this disrespect is really rather good for Parker, even acknowledging boxing's trash talk is geared more to selling tickets and pay-per-views than true critiques of form and ability. He may not be flying under the radar exactly but underdog status never hurts.

Interestingly, Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter as the muscular young giant builds his record as the IBF heavyweight world champion, has begun to talk more glowingly of Parker - but that's because it appears the Pulev bout may not take place, stalled over money and Parker is a potential replacement.

Joshua has to take on Parker soon as mandatory challenger - but has asked him to fight Price on the November 26 Joshua-Pulev undercard as an eliminator for who fights Joshua next in the new year. For many fighters, that would be a slap in the face. But Parker and handlers Duco boxed clever. They know the winner of the Price-Parker bout will create excitement and a fatter purse.

If Pulev decides against fighting knockout specialist Joshua, Parker could be promoted into the main bout on November 26. That's a daunting prospect and Joshua's team clearly think Parker is a feasible Plan B - unlikely to upset the Joshua applecart; the Poms clearly don't rate him.

But here's McGuigan again on Joshua in that same column: "Joshua is a magnificent physical specimen, a compelling sight in the ring...but as a boxer he can't let that define him. It won't save him. Joshua is still too robotic and predictable; he's going to have problems against guys who can move, use every inch of the ring, who are fluid and time their shots."

Sound like anyone you know?

Price is also far bigger, has a reach far longer than Parker and real power. But Price also has a reputation for a glass jaw and the 33-year-old has never beaten anyone of real note. I saw him box as an amateur - winning the super-heavyweight gold medal at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Sounds pretty good, until you realise Price made the final in Melbourne after being floored three times by Indian heavyweight Varghese Johnson but rose to knock his opponent out. In Beijing, he was stopped in round two, taken apart by well-performed, but much smaller, Italian heavyweight and gold medallist Roberto Cammarelle (who lost a disputed gold medal match to Joshua in London four years later in what many saw as a hometown decision).

Price's pro defeats have come twice at the hands of US veteran Tony Thompson in 2013, both TKOs; he was knocked out by unknown German Erkan Teper last year. Both Thompson and Teper then failed drugs tests, starting Price on a comeback fuelled by righteous indignation, overlooking the fact his lights went out three times, drugs or no drugs. So Price can hit but can also be hit - attractive to Parker whose handspeed and countering is not in doubt.

But it all depends on Dimitrenko on Saturday - originally scheduled so Parker had game time against a fighter bigger than him before Joshua. Dimitrenko will be difficult but Parker should get past him. Against Pulev in 2012, Dimitrenko showed a serviceable jab but the rugged Pulev - who has only ever lost to Wladimir Klitschko in a list of opponents superior to both Dimitrenko and Parker - simply dismantled him; Dimitrenko couldn't deal with Pulev's counter-punching.

He may not be able to cope with Parker's either; the 24-year-old Kiwi heavyweight could then be propelled onto one of boxing's biggest stages.