If Joseph Parker fights again after losing to Dillian Whyte in a punishing bout which could leave as many mental scars as physical ones, he will have to turn the spotlight on everything he's doing.

Something has to change. Whyte has improved significantly since losing to Anthony Joshua eight fights ago. Joshua, the WBO, WBA and IBF world champion, keeps improving, and so does Deontay Wilder, who owns the WBC version.

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But Parker has stayed relatively static. The margins are small at this level of professional boxing – we saw that at the O2 Arena again, and more on that below – but for whatever reason Parker hasn't made the incremental gains required to move with the top echelon.

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He wasn't far away against Whyte. He won the first round easily and would have won the second but for the headbutt which dropped him and cost him that round and probably the next two as he tried to recover.

Dillian Whyte (left) in action against Joseph Parker during their WBC Silver Heavyweight title and WBO International Heavyweight title at the O2 Arena, London. . Photo / Getty Images.
Dillian Whyte (left) in action against Joseph Parker during their WBC Silver Heavyweight title and WBO International Heavyweight title at the O2 Arena, London. . Photo / Getty Images.

And watch the 12th round again; Whyte was in serious trouble with 15 seconds to go after being dropped by a straight right – the first time in a long time that Parker has seriously hurt an opponent. But the 30-year-old used his ring craft and bulk to smother Parker against the ropes and the chance was gone.

Another 20 seconds in the round and Parker could have won the fight by stoppage and what an incredible achievement that would have been.

Dereck Chisora, a heavyweight rival who stopped Carlos Takam with two stunning right hands in the eighth round of an extremely entertaining main undercard fight, doubts Parker will be back.

The Englishman, who incidentally hates Whyte with a passion and lost to him a couple of years ago, said he didn't think the Kiwi had the hunger to keep training after making many millions of dollars in his last two defeats.

"He's a fighter but when he chucks his jab his hands are down. He was not motivated for this fight. I think when he made money from the AJ fight he forgot boxing, basically. He wasn't the same guy.

"The things he did in the AJ fight he didn't do in there. He was in great shape but he didn't have it. Parker won't be fighting again."

Promoter Eddie Hearn sitting alongside Chisora, agreed: "The 12th round kind of saved him," he said. "Another 30 seconds and he might have had Whyte so he left the fight on a high. People will be saying 'we want Parker back' but will you want to drop down the money? It's all about hunger and I don't know him well enough to comment."

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Parker is extremely loyal and has said he is sticking by his team; most notably trainer Kevin Barry and promoter David Higgins. He is very close to both of them.

But his management team – a group separate to his promotional team - are likely to want to ask some questions about the best way forward for a talented boxer who for whatever reason isn't getting the best out of himself.

Who's next if he does fight again? Hearn threw unbeaten American Jarrell Miller, who has a 21-0 professional into the mix, but Miller would be a step too far at this rebuilding stage.

Maybe Parker needs to fight in New Zealand in front of a familiar crowd again. He has raised his profile in the United Kingdom during his last three bouts but he has won only one – a nervy decision in a horrible match-up against Hughie Fury in September.

What about Australian Lucas Browne, who was knocked out by Whyte in March? Browne isn't on Parker's level but would still carry an element of risk and the trans-Tasman element would help the promotion.

Or what about Kiwi-Tongan Junior Fa, a man with whom Parker has a strong rivalry going back to their amateur days in south Auckland. Fa is now ranked No12 by the WBO and a win over him would lift Parker's standing with that organisation.

It would be a big domestic scrap and these two are destined to fight at some stage. Maybe this loss has pushed it forward. Either way, there are big decisions to make for Parker and his team.