Closing out 2023 with an impressive win over American Deontay Wilder, Kiwi boxer Joseph Parker goes into 2024 with options.
Parker spent most of 2023 working his way back to the top of the heavyweight division, building himself back up after a knockout loss to Joe Joyce in late 2022. But his win over Wilder in Saudi Arabia was a statement win and arguably the best performance of Parker’s career, proving he remains one of the world’s most elite boxers in the weight class.
Before the bout, there had been discussions about Wilder going on to fight Brit Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia in early 2024. Parker played spoiler to those plans and, in an interview with Sky Sports UK, Parker’s manager David Higgins suggested Parker could now chase the Joshua fight himself - though admitted it might be too soon to run that one back.
“Joseph has earned that fight in my opinion and the Saudis would see merit in Parker against Anthony Joshua,” Higgins said.
“We’ll fight Anthony Joshua in a heartbeat. Everyone knows Joseph will fight him next but I am not sure that’s an option. We’ll obviously look at any option and see what comes forward.
“I can’t speak for [the Anthony Joshua] team, but they are probably trying to rebuild to a point and have a big fight against the likes of Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk.
“Maybe Joseph, especially after the way he handled his business with Wilder, is probably seen as high-risk.”
Joshua was the first person to beat Parker, taking the Kiwi’s WBO world heavyweight title away with a unanimous decision win in 2018.
Parker has never been one to shy away from a challenge, with bouts against former world champions Wilder, Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jnr, as well as top-ranked fighters including Joyce and Dillian Whyte among those on his resume.
The 31-year-old is likely to get a nice bump up the rankings with some organisations when all is updated after the win over Wilder, who is ranked No 1 with the WBC and WBA. Parker has already risen to No 3 with BoxRec, the respected global boxing records website; behind just Oleksandr Usyk and Joshua.
While the world titles are currently tied up in a scheduled fight between Usyk (WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, IBO, and The Ring champion) and Tyson Fury (WBC champion) to determine an undisputed heavyweight champion in mid-February, Higgins said Parker would welcome an opportunity to fight for a belt again if that arose next.
However, he indicated they were looking to have Parker turn things around in March, which would likely be too soon for a title fight should the bout between Fury and Usyk go ahead as scheduled.
Outside of Joshua or a title fight, Zhilei Zhang has voiced his interest in a fight with Parker; the hard-hitting Chinese fighter surging after two knockout wins over Joyce in his past two fights and the WBO interim world heavyweight title in his possession.
“I think we’ll look at every option and Joseph wants to be busy and he’s looked at his best fighting regularly,” Higgins told Sky Sports.
“He’s got some momentum going so the intent is to continue. We don’t want to step backward to weaker opponents. We want to keep the level up and keep busy.
“If he can fight again in March, he’ll be grateful to everyone who has helped facilitate that.”
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