Joseph Parker's trainer Kevin Barry believes the Kiwi heavyweight could have a shot at reclaiming his world title at the end of the year.
Parker arrived back in Auckland yesterday after defeating Shawndell Winters via TKO in Dallas, Texas over the weekend, in what was his third knockout victory in a row.
While the 28-year-old former champ takes a bit of time off to recover from the fight, his team have been straight back to work in planning what's next for Parker – who sits at number two on the WBO heavyweight rankings.
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Barry said he has an "exciting plan" in place for Parker in his quest to return to re-join the top players in the crowded heavyweight division.
"Joe just arrived back in Auckland this morning to his four girls and he'll have a little bit of time off," Barry said in an interview with Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave. "I've already been on the phone three times today with David Higgins – him and I are already putting a plan in place. Quite an exciting plan too.
"We hope to see Joe back in the ring sometime in June or July this year. And it's very important after only having the one fight in 2019, that we get Joe straight back into the ring. And that was our plan fighting him early in 2020 that we would definitely get in our three fights in this year. So we're looking at options, we're looking at venues."
Parker's next fight will likely be against a significantly tougher opponent over the unheralded American Winters, who despite being the smaller man in the ring, caused Parker a few problems during their bout including a cut above his right eye.
Barry said finding the next opponent could prove tricky, with most of the top heavyweights already contracted in fights, but he is confident Parker will be ready for anything that is thrown at him.
"There's a lot of guys that we would like to be in the ring with who are already booked for fights like [Dereck] Chisora is fighting [Oleksandr] Usyk, Dillian Whyte is fighting [Alexander] Povetkin.
"As well as us looking for an opponent and the right fight date and the right time, we also have to be well aware that if an opportunity presents itself at the moment if someone was to get injured or pull out of the fight, that we're ready to go.
"Nobody expected Andy Ruiz to be in the ring with Anthony Joshua last year and of course we all know what happened there.
"At this particular time when the heavyweight division is red hot and has got so much action in it and so many good fighters in it, it's very important that we take the most out of every opportunity that comes our way."
Parker will be looking to get back into the heavyweight conversation with the likes Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, both of whom look likely to meet in a super fight later this year – providing Fury repeats his decisive victory over Deontay Wilder in their contracted rematch.
For Team Parker, a Joshua-Fury fight could also open up a road back to the WBO heavyweight title – the belt Parker lost to Joshua in 2018.
Joshua – who holds the WBO title as well as the WBA, IBF and IBO straps – will face mandatory IBF challenger Kubrat Pulev in June. He is then due to fight WBO challenger Usyk, but a Fury super fight could force Joshua to vacate the WBO belt instead, which could open a door for second-ranked Parker with a chance to challenge for the vacant title.
Barry said he was excited by the prospect, and said the fight could happen as early as the end of the year – if a few fights go their way.
"The exciting thing for us is right at the moment, Joshua is fighting Pulev who is the IBF mandatory [challenger]. Then he's supposed to fight Usyk who is the mandatory to the WBO. Now if that fight doesn't happen – the Usyk camp has already accepted step-aside money once – there's a very good likelihood that if Joshua fights Fury, that the WBO belt might be up for grabs.
"And we know Joe is sitting there very solidly at number two at the moment so that could give us a really nice option towards the end of the year."