The prospect of a domestic heavyweight showdown between Joseph Parker and Junior Fa, one likely to rival the David Tua v Shane Cameron fight of a decade ago in terms of interest in New Zealand, has moved a step closer.
The Herald can reveal the Parker and Fa teams have been in preliminary talks, and, while the fight won't happen in the short-term it could within the next 18 months to two years.
If and when it does it will be a blockbuster. Parker and Fa, who fought four times as amateurs with honours shared at two wins each, have been on a collision course since they turned professional and their next meeting in the ring will be highly anticipated.
The undefeated Fa is ranked No12 by the WBO, with Parker, the former WBO world champion, now not ranked within the top 15 by the organisation after his defeats to Englishmen Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte.
Parker is ranked No6 by the WBC, which is represented by world champion Deontay Wilder. That is seen as a fairer indication of the 26-year-old's talent by most in the professional boxing industry, including Fa's manager Mark Keddell.
"He's had a couple of losses but he's still a top-10 fighter," Keddell said. "He is world class."
Fa, 28, has fought 15 times as a professional and has yet to taste defeat but he hasn't been at his best in his last two bouts – a lacklustre points decision against Mexican Luis Pascual in Auckland and before that a majority decision against American Craig Lewis in the United States.
Despite a big focus on his fitness and mental approach, Fa's most recent performance was hampered by injury and said to be not representative of his true potential.
The next six months are crucial to both men's careers.
Parker's loss to Whyte in London in late July was a big setback and, while the Kiwi-Samoan has indicated he wants to fight again before the end of the year, the selection of his next opponent is crucial. It is understood that Parker's promoter David Higgins has an opponent in mind and will soon present his name to Parker's team.
Fa, promoted by American Lou di Bella, who also controls the interests of Wilder, will be keen to fight higher-profile opponents for the prestige and money such bouts bring but his team will be keen to preserve his undefeated record for as long as possible.
For Fa, a Kiwi-Tongan, a fight against Parker is likely to be one of the most lucrative in his career and should net him a six-figure sum at least, although Keddell is likely to want his man to hold out for a million-dollar payday. Tua and Cameron were paid $500,000 each by Higgins in a risky move inspired by Don King's gamble on the Rumble in the Jungle fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in 1974.
For Parker, who has a 24-2 record, it will be a fight he will expect to win well and it would resurrect an interest in his career among the more casual of boxing supporters here who are in danger of switching off after his consecutive losses.
A world title challenge or fight against a well-known opponent would resurrect that interest, but that will take a lot of work and a fair bit of luck for a man advised in the Herald by none other than former undisputed world champion Lennox Lewis recently to take some time off to work on his defensive movement and right hand.
The next best thing for Parker would be a fight against fellow Aucklander Fa. Next October will be the 10-year anniversary of Tua v Cameron at Hamilton's Mystery Creek Events Centre, a bout which was Higgins' first as a boxing promoter and which set a television pay per view record which still stands today.
That was a fight, won by Tua via a stunning knockout in the second round, which set in motion Higgins' promotional career and by extension Parker's as a professional boxer.
Another highly-anticipated domestic heavyweight scrap around that time would breathe life into the careers of both Parker and Fa and would complete the circle nicely.