Joseph Parker's next opponent has been confirmed as American Shawndell Winters, and the Kiwi heavyweight has been preparing for what should be a convincing victory with some excellent sparring partners including former foe Carlos Takam.

Parker sparred with Takam, whom he beat on points in Auckland in 2016, at his Las Vegas base today. Another session with the tough Frenchman is scheduled for later in the week and there is a good possibility Parker could spar against undefeated Brit Joe Joyce next week as the big men begin gathering in Sin City for the Tyson Fury v Deontay Wilder re-match on February 22.

The quality preparation is seen as crucial for his fight against Winters in Dallas at the end of this month because, after his disappointment of fighting only once last year – a stoppage win against Alex Leapai in Providence, New York – nothing less than a dominant performance will be acceptable as he attempts to position himself among the upper echelon of heavyweights again.

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"Obviously we would have liked a bigger name but after the setback of only fighting once in 2019, I think Shawndell Winters is the perfect comeback fight to get us going at the beginning of 2020," trainer Kevin Barry told the Herald.

"He's the current North American Boxing Association heavyweight champion and he's ranked 14th with the WBA. It's very, very important for Joe to look good here. At the moment the heavyweight division is on fire and Joe needs to be hot in this performance to solidify his place as one of the elite heavyweights in the world today."

Parker, in his fifth week of training at his Las Vegas base during which he has racked up 67 rounds of sparring, saw several potential opponents come and go on the way to Winters' eventual confirmation.

"We all but had Robert Helenius signed," Barry confirmed. "We had offers to Gerald Washington, Christian Hammer, Johann Duhaupus, Erkan Teper, Mariusz Wach."

Parker is obviously eager to continue a comeback after the disappointment of 2018, during which he lost his WBO title to Anthony Joshua, and suffered a loss in his next fight to Dillian Whyte. The difficulties of his promoters - now Eddie Hearn's Matchroom – in finding suitable opponents were compounded last year when Parker was forced to withdraw from his fight against Dereck Chisora due to a spider bite.

"We were looking for that fight to really get us back in a good position and it didn't happen," Barry said.

"Joe focused on a lot of good strength work back in New Zealand in November and December. He's very strong and powerful at the moment and the camp is going well.

"I've been saying to him it doesn't really matter who we next fight – you have to look great. If we're going to put our hand up we have to show it out there."

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