This weekend marks the latest attempt to get this fight on, following Hughie Fury’s (20-0) last minute withdrawal through injury earlier in the year. It will be a hometown event for the Stockport born Fury as he takes on New Zealand’s Joseph Parker (23-0) inside the Manchester Arena. This will be Parker’s second defence of his WBO belt since outpointing Andy Ruiz Jr, for the title vacated by his upcoming opponents more famous cousin, Tyson Fury.
It is rare for the champion to compete outside of his native New Zealand, and will be the first time that he has taken his title on the road. With both fighters maintaining perfect records this promises to be a close and exceptionally tough to predict encounter.
Joseph Parker vs Hughie Fury for the WBO world heavyweight title.
Where: Manchester Arena, Manchester, UK
When: Saturday, 23rd September (10pm BST / 5pmET)
TV: YouTube PPV
Back in the 1980s when Mike Tyson was tearing up the heavyweight division, a man called Francesco Damiani held the WBO title. If you had forgotten about him that is because he wasn’t especially memorable in the first place. Tyson was considered the undisputed champion regardless of Damiani’s WBO belt, and “Iron” Mike never considered him significantly noteworthy to even entertain a match-up.
The WBO title has grown in worth in the intervening years – Damiani was its first heavyweight king – and since there have been numerous great champions. However, with all eyes currently on Anthony Joshua and America’s Deontay Wilder, the WBO belt once again feels a little superfluous.
Joseph Parker can call himself world champion, he, after all, has the belt to prove it, but no one except perhaps himself and the adoring New Zealand public really believes it. He stands at the periphery with the foreground belonging to Joshua and Wilder. The hoped-for unification bout in 2018 (assuming Cuba’s Luis Ortiz, doesn’t get in the way) will in all likelihood be conducted around him; if he can overcome the challenge of Britain’s Hughie Fury.
As is often the case in modern heavyweight boxing, Fury maintains an unbeaten record of 20 wins, with ten, coming by virtue of a knockout. On paper, and from a helicopter view, he looks a bonafide world championship contender. However, closer inspection unmasks his record as being paper-thin, even at domestic and European level. Discounting faded prospect Dominick Guinn (35-11-1); a fighter whose career ultimately and inadvertently lived up to his ring name of “The Southern Disaster”. Only Cameroon’s Fred Kassi (18-6-1) is even semi-noteworthy.
In his last bout, back in April 2016, Fury defeated Kassi by a technical decision in round 7. The early stoppage being forced after a brutal and accidental clash of heads, but with Fury being comfortably ahead on all the judges’ cards. Those of a positive disposition could view this latest win as the Briton moving through the gears and gradually stepping up in class, ahead of the fight of his life.
However, even this optimism needs to be tempered by the fact that “Big” Fred, lasted only 3 rounds in his last outing with Jarrell Miller. Citing a hand injury, he retired on his stool and has been inactive in the succeeding fourteen months. The Kassi result, like the remainder of Fury’s record, is hard to place into its correct context. Is he just a limited but reasonably able British and European level fighter, or is there more developmental potential for the 23-year-old. The major, positive going into this title fight is at least his opponent is Joseph Parker.
Many of the above limitations directed at Fury could equally be aimed at Parker. A significant proportion of Parker’s record is built up against severely limited domestic opposition – New Zealand is hardly a country famed for its heavyweight boxing credentials – and a rag-tag mix of anonymous international opponents. Even including a second round stoppage of the once reasonable, but now preposterously over-the-hill and overweight; Frans “The White Buffalo” Botha.
Even his championship victory over the previously unbeaten yet poorly conditioned Andy Ruiz Jr, poses more questions than answers. His majority decision triumph – the first ever world title fight in New Zealand – was wafer-thin and tempered by claims of a hometown verdict by Ruiz’s team.
The 25-year-old has built a reputation as a hard-hitting and concussive puncher. He is the self-styled “Destroyer” and with 18 knockouts in 23 contests, this is not unreasonable. However, the relative merits of the overwhelming bulk of these opponents should be considered. It is telling that in his most recent contests with Ruiz and Razvan Cojanu; that he has been unable to find the knockout punch. Cojanu, a fighter rated 14th by the WBO took the bout on just 12 days notice, following Fury’s injury withdrawal and should have been easy prey for Parker. However, despite a comfortable point’s victory, and tagging Cojanu several times, he never looked like knocking him out.
Parker and Fury's teams kick-off in the run-up to Saturday's fight. Video courtesy of iFLTV
This fight has one solitary similarity with last weekend’s seismic encounter between Golovkin and Alvarez, in that the bookmakers cannot separate them. Parker is the narrow favourite but with the challenger only hovering around the even-money mark; potential investors would be advised to leave their bankroll safely tucked up at home when considering this one.
If you can’t resist getting in on the action - in fairness it may be the only way to make what could be a tepid encounter enjoyable - then there are two differing outcomes that seem most likely. The first is that Parker lives up to the parochial hype surrounding his punching power and dispatches Fury in relatively exhilarating fashion. This could happen in the early to mid-rounds as Hughie strives to shake off some of the ring rust resulting from his 18-month injury lay-off. It could also occur due to the fact that Fury, just isn’t that good. This may seem to be a base or glib assessment, but we really know little and can determine less, concerning his true ability, in the context of his record to date.
The alternative is a less, dynamic affair where Fury utilises his additional reach and keeps the champion at arm’s length. Parker, for his part, not being able to land the money-maker and the challenger wearing him down over the full 12 rounds. It won’t be pretty or exciting, but at the end of it, Hughie Fury would be a world champion. Until, at least: Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder or Luis Ruiz, has the will or interest to fight him.
Verdict: Fury to win by unanimous decision
The undercard provides something of a mixed bag, with a couple of titles on the line. Local boy, “Jimmy” Kilrain Kelly (22-1) will take on Stilyan Kostov (21-7) for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental super welterweight title. The Bulgarian enters the ring on the back of three defeats in his last four outings and Kelly will thus be a firm favourite.
Elsewhere, the attacking, Josh Wale (24-9-2) will make the first defence of his British bantamweight title. A crown that he picked up in July following a narrow point’s victory over Scotland’s Jamie Wilson. His opponent on the night will be former Commonwealth super-flyweight champion, Don Broadhurst (19-3-1). The challenger, will in all probability be in for a tough night in what should be a keenly contested bout.
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