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Win sets up prospect of NZ’s first heavyweight boxing champion

Opinion Piece

The prospect of having a real heavyweight boxing champion is an enticing one for New Zealand sports fans and has become a realistic possibility after the win of Joseph Parker over Carlos Takam on Saturday night.

Parker’s win has made him the mandatory challenger to the IBF champion Anthony Joshua.

Parker and his team took a genuine risk in agreeing to fight Takam, a rugged and experienced fighter who challenged him all the way through the 12-round bout. Takam was as different as night from day to the extremely limited opponents Parker had been routinely knocking out up to now.

If he can beat Joshua, Parker will have at least one version of the heavyweight title and be in line for a bout against the colourful Tyson Fury — who went on Twitter to welcome Parker to big-time boxing.

Many shrewd boxing judges have felt for some time that Parker was an exceptional talent with lightning fast hand speed, an effective jab and a good all round defence to back it up. He is easily the most balanced boxer-fighter of New Zealand’s big men for many years.

Here in Gisborne we celebrate the brave challenge for what was then the undisputed heavyweight title by our own Tom Heeney in 1928. Heeney had the misfortune to come up against one of the great champions in Gene Tunney but gave it all he had.

David Tua was completely outclassed by Lennox Lewis in 2000 and apart from that New Zealand has a slender link with Bob Fitzsimmons, who was born in Cornwall but was brought here by his family at the age of nine and defeated Gentleman Jim Corbett in 1897. Fitzsimmons had six bareknuckle fights here before going first to Australia and then the United States.

In recent times mixed martial arts fighting has supplanted boxing, certainly on television, but there is still a lingering glamour in being the heavyweight champion of the world.

Parker appears to be on course to achieve that status, but there are many more hard fights to come for the 24-year-old from South Auckland.