Anthony Joshua's polished victory over Andy Ruiz Jr. to reclaim the WBO, IBF and WBA belts promises to shape the future of the heavyweight division.
While Deontay Wilder puts his WBC belt on the line in the anticipated February 22 rematch against Tyson Fury in Las Vegas, every other contender is again lining up for a crack at Joshua.
Boxing politics, as always, now comes into play. Despite fighting once this year in his late stoppage victory over Alex Leapai back in June, Joseph Parker is ranked eighth best heavyweight by Ring Magazine and remains right in the mix.
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With two fights remaining on his deal with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom boxing, here we look at five potential Parker opponents for early next year.
The former undisputed cruiserweight champion knocked off Chazz Witherspoon by way of seventh round stoppage in his heavyweight debut last October and was then immediately installed as WBO mandatory challenger. This is where it gets interesting. Joshua has been ordered to defend his IBF title against their mandatory, Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev. That fight is expected to be Joshua's next in April. While the Brit is determined not to relinquish any of his belts, speculation is rife he may have to do exactly after the WBO also ordered Joshua to defend their title against Oleksandr Usyk by June. It's for this reason that Parker's manager, David Higgins, recently attended the WBO summit in Tokyo. If Joshua is forced to vacate or stripped of the WBO title, Dereck Chisora is attempting to challenge Usyk for that belt. However, as Higgins pointed out in Tokyo, Parker is ranked second by the WBO and is their former champion. He should, therefore, be next in line for a second shot at the potentially vacant title. Usyk is not the biggest heavyweight stalking the globe but is extremely dangerous for his technical boxing ability and would be favoured to beat Parker. Both fighters are in Eddie Hearn's Matchroom stable so, in theory at least, it would be an easy bout to make should Joshua be forced to vacate and Higgins manages to push Chisora aside – which may be no easy task.
The good, the bad and the ugly: unpacking the 2019 sporting year
'He went off the tracks': Joseph Parker takes aim at Andy Ruiz
Made a sluggish return to the ring on the Joshua undercard after a five-month absence where a failed doping test clouded his future. Whyte recorded a comfortable, if not labouring, decision victory over Polish veteran Mariusz Wach (35-6) after taking the fight on short notice and coming in overweight. UK anti-doping then cleared Whyte of any wrongdoing. The WBC has since reinstated Whyte as their 'interim' champion and he will again become their mandatory challenger after Deontay Wilder's rematch with Fury. Whyte's mandatory won't, however, be due until February 2021. And with Wilder and Fury expected to engage in a third trilogy fight, Whyte appears on the outer. Such a lengthy wait leaves Whyte with over a year to ponder his options. To stay active in that time he probably needs at least two more fights. A Parker rematch makes sense on many levels. It would be highly marketable after their first brawl was marred by a head clash and ended with Whyte grimly holding on in the final round.
Andy Ruiz Jr.
Interest may have dimmed somewhat from the Parker camp since Ruiz lost the belts but a rematch of their tightly contested fight for the vacant WBO title three years ago in Auckland would be another easy sell, with both boxers now more recognisable. Ruiz will soon realise there is little to no hope of a third fight with Joshua – he blew his chance by eating, drinking, partying and packing on the pounds in the lead up to their rematch. The Mexican needs to strike while his profile is hot. Given his history with Parker, this route would make sense to explore. Prior to Joshua, Parker was Ruiz's only defeat and he may be keen to try avenge that result.
Styles make fights and Chisora rarely engages in a boring brawl. His eighth round knockout of Carlos Takam on the Whyte-Parker undercard was one of the best heavyweight clashes of 2018. Chisora comes to swing. In many ways his style is perfect for Parker who would enjoy superior height and reach advantages. The pair were slated to meet in October, only for Parker to pull out with what was deemed a spider bite. Since then Chisora's manager, David Haye, has attempted to maneuver him into a position to fight Usyk for the potentially vacant WBO title. There is no doubt, though, that Parker against Chisora would be highly entertaining.
Selecting opponents is often about timing. And if there is a right time to strike Povetkin, it appears now. The former title challenger – beaten by Wladimir Klitschko and Joshua – seemed well past his prime on the Joshua undercard, with many astute observers believing the 40-year-old was fortunate to gain a split decision draw against rising American Michael Hunter, the former cruiserweight whose only loss came against Usyk in 2017. Hunter troubled Povetkin from the outset with his fast hands and activity. Parker could do likewise. Povetkin retains dangerous power with his rolled knuckle hooks but if Parker gets his tactics right, the veteran could be a notable notch on the belt.