One of the many questions asked after Joseph Parker lost his WBO world heavyweight title to Anthony Joshua on a cold night in Cardiff in early 2018 was whether he still had the hunger required to cut it at the highest level of boxing.
Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter, was one of those who asked it. Hearn, as comfortable in front of a camera or on a microphone as he is in his bed at night, posed the question before another of his fighters, Dillian Whyte, fought Kiwi Parker four months later in a sweltering London.
It was a fair question. Parker had earned in the region of $8 million when surrendering his belt to Joshua over 12 rounds at the Principality Stadium in a fight which never got out of first gear, and here he was about to face a Jamaican-born scrapper from the mean streets of South London who had also at the time lost only once – also to Joshua.
A return to the top was (and is) Parker's aim, as was, more pragmatically no doubt, a return to some good paydays, but how much desire was there, really, within Parker to take himself to some very uncomfortable places in order to do so when he had already set himself and his family up for life?
Parker lost to Whyte that night, a huge setback given it was his second on the bounce and a fight he should have won, but in my opinion, he enhanced his reputation – certainly his reputation for toughness and resilience, because before he stepped between the ropes Parker had never been hurt in his professional career, much less put on the canvas.
At the O2 Arena, Parker was down in the second due to an accidental but illegal headbutt from Whyte not ruled as such by referee Ian John Lewis who had only the slenderest hold on the contest.
Parker was also dropped in the ninth with a vicious left hook by Whyte, but if anything he finished the fight the stronger of the two and indeed dropped Whyte near the end of the 12th and final round, with his exhausted opponent using all of his ring craft and the benevolence of the referee to hold and therefore nullify Parker until the final bell. So yes, it takes hunger to persevere like that, hunger that goes far beyond padding one's bank account.
I was reminded of this when watching Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder go at it in their trilogy fight in Las Vegas at the weekend in which both men went to new levels of resilience.
Boxing is like no other sport in that the most memorable contests hinge on the desire of both combatants to put all of their fears and thoughts of safety to one side in order to win. They are a battle of wills, or rather, a battle of survival.
Wilder, who sacked a trainer for throwing in the towel in his last fight with Fury, wrote himself into folklore when dragging himself off the canvas twice before being knocked unconscious in the 11th with one of the most vicious three-punch combinations you'll ever see.
This was after the American had fought on with a broken right hand – caused probably when dropping Fury in the fourth round for the first time. The Gypsy King himself was put down twice that round before again showing near supernatural powers of recovery.
"It was like death," Muhammad Ali said after winning his own trilogy fight with Joe Frazier in the 'Thriller in Manila'. Frazier's corner retired him that night, and Ali dropped to his knees in relief at seeing them do it. "Closest thing to dyin' that I know of," he said.
Fury sang to the crowd afterwards, but he'll know that he had to go to the bottom of the well in that fight and that he can't do that many more times in his career. The same applies to Wilder.
Fury is unpredictable but it wouldn't surprise if he retires if and when he unifies the heavyweight division, a decision that may hold its own perils for a man with previous mental health problems who has admitted that nothing makes him happier than boxing.
After Parker celebrated with Fury in Las Vegas, he may have travelled to the United Kingdom ahead of his rematch with Derek Chisora scheduled for December 18 with a new appreciation for the depths a prize fighter must explore in order to attain the biggest highs.
At the age of 29, and with probably only a couple of years of fighting left, the clock is ticking on Parker's career and therefore his ability to reach the top again. He's ranked behind only Joe Joyce as a challenger for Oleksander Usyk's WBO, WBA and IBF belts but a lot of pieces must fall into place for Parker now.
His hunger can't be faulted, though, as he proved three years ago. He's as tough as they come in the toughest of all sports.