If only they would stop calling these piffling boxing matches world title fights.

Boxing keeps boxing on, turning low blows into desperate jabs, but Auckland has been dragged into the heavyweight mire by events of recent days. It's an embarrassment that won't go away.

Joseph Parker's so-called defence of a WBO world crown against Hughie Fury was lightweight enough, when you consider how long Fury has been out of the ring, the lack of reputable notches on his belt, a splintered heavyweight scene lacking a credible pecking order, and a strange atmosphere of indifference which surrounded the build-up. Honestly, I've seen more excitement around a Super Rugby match.

After Hughie quit the contest, his overweight cousin Tyson gave this joke a sad punch line with a mock offer to step in. What a tremendous laugh.


The now-cancelled fight was being bolstered by the Fury name, the link to Tyson's famous win over Wladimir Klitschko. There was little which told the layman, the average punter, that Hughie was a decent fighter at all. Parker v H. Fury would have been a mid-grade contest on an undercard during the heavyweight glory days.

In its place there is a fight on, but not much of one we will hope. Hughie Fury's replacement snuck into the country to a sparse reception, befitting a man who sneaks into just one of the four top-15 heavyweight ranking lists.

Parker has little to win, and everything to lose against giant Romanian Razvan Cojanu. Even in victory, it will still be difficult for most of us to know if Joe Parker is the real deal, or a big fish who will be drastically re-sized when he leaps into the big pond.

Give boxing this though. It may have trouble organising fights, but sure knows how to organise a flight in a crisis, even if Camp Fury seemed unsure how to check in. The Romanian hit Auckland with remarkable speed, wandering through the arrival hall with heavyweight boxing's remnants of credibility having already taken flight.

Parker's Auckland farewell has turned into rope-a-joke, unfortunately, including a venue downsizing. It certainly pales next to this weekend's Wladimir Klitschko-Anthony Joshua contest. A 3000-seat arena for Parker's defence is no Wembley. Any worse, and Parker will be tying "Big Foot" Cojanu in knots at a scout hall.

Duco Events isn't to blame for the state of heavyweight boxing, and their cast of interesting characters deserve respect for what they have brought to our sporting scene, and particularly the clever handling of Parker's career and his development as a boxer.

Trainer Kevin Barry, guided by many experiences good and bad, has given Project Parker his absolute all, primarily in Las Vegas.

To talk to Barry is to feel a force of nature and he appears on red alert even on a day off, with absolute dedication to Parker's boxing and welfare. Duco Events, meanwhile, puts ideas into action, money on the line, and deserves any reward it gets.

Duco boxing boss David Higgins' staccato delivered a brilliant line or two after Fury pulled out, predicting a back injury excuse would be used to explain what was really a "moral compass" issue, although Camp Fury protested loudly.

Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion who has done everything in his considerable verbal power to tempt Parker into an immediate fight, has talked the most sense however.

In an entertaining radio burst, he essentially stated that the only heavyweight fights which count for now are between the various champions, that unification is the only thing which matters. Kiwi pride in Parker's rise can't deny that.

Wilder called on promoters and managers to stop being afraid, to stop manipulating the heavyweight scene, to put on real fights - for which Klitschko versus Joshua clearly counts, while Parker versus the long tall Romanian doesn't.

Joseph Parker is a fantastic athlete and already close to being a national sporting legend. On a world scale, I respectfully doubt he will end up being much more than a dot in history. But many of us are hoping that he does indeed clamber to the top of this dishevelled heap, even if he is unlikely to stay there long.

There's still money to be made for the Parker gang, glory to be chased, and I hope he takes up Wilder's frantic offer sooner rather than later. Wilder sounds like a man who will turn up anywhere with guns blazing, and give us entertaining moments along the way.