Joseph Parker has been dealt a blow just days before Christmas. The Kiwi heavyweight called out British boxer Dillian Whyte on social media on Saturday, saying the pair had unfinished business after fighting earlier this year.
However, Whyte appears keen to move on to bigger things after his 11th-round knockout of Brit Dereck Chisora today. The win puts Whyte in line for a lucrative fight with unbeaten three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Whyte capped a brilliant year with a third victory and second triumph over Chisora in a pulsating event at London's O2 Arena.
This contest was slightly shorter but no less brutal than their first war over 12 rounds in December 2016. No less entertaining, either.
Astute and aware from first to last, Whyte finished this second war with a left hook which left Chisora on his back from the second it landed.
Whyte immediately called out Joshua afterwards for a brawl at Wembley Stadium in April but there was no clear answer from Joshua at ringside, or both fighters' promoter Eddie Hearn.
The fight was close. When Chisora was knocked out, he was ahead on two of the judges' cards.
But in that 11th round, just a minute before the chilling left hook denouement, referee Marcus McDonnell had punished Chisora with a point deduction for an upward chopping elbow, as Whyte leaned his full bodyweight on him.
It was the second point deduction after one in the eighth round, this time for a low blow. He had been warned earlier in the round. There were howls of derision from the seats close to the ring. It looked marginal. Harsh, even. But it mattered not in the end. Whyte deserves great praise.
This was another exhausting, tumbling, toe-to-toe battle between two resilient, determined fighters. It was thrilling in its enactment. The styles of these men gel so brilliantly, they are such warriors, they bring the best out in each other.
The atmosphere grew from the chilled to the electric as first Chisora walked out to Hotel California by The Eagles — the Finchley man is forever an eccentric — Brixton man Whyte then out to his familiar tune, AC/DC's Back In Black, the perfect thumping beat to rock the sellout O2 Arena.
If the first fight two years ago was a thriller over 12 rounds, one of the best heavyweight contests ever seen on British shores, it took less than a minute for these two belligerent fighters to resume their dance of rivalry. Punches thumped loudly and markedly into torso and head. Whyte was sharp in the opening stanza, rocking back Chisora to the ropes with a heavy right hand, but the feeling out process was merely perfunctory. The pattern was set.
Chisora came forward like a man on a mission, all night, almost possessed, and deserves great credit for his desire, at 34, still to win a world title. Whyte met him in the middle, was smart with his movement and uppercuts, and is now so much less the brawler than the heavy punching, aware ring general.
There is still room for improvement but Whyte so clearly deserves a title shot. And it ought to be Joshua.