Joseph Parker’s unanimous points decision loss to Dillian Whyte now leaves his future up in the air, as everyone scrambles to figure out what sort of career path he’ll have from now on, writes Jamie Wall.
Heavyweight boxing fights are scheduled for 12 rounds, but Joseph Parker somehow only managed to show up for the first and last ones this morning in London.
But first, credit where credit’s due. Whyte, who has now fashioned eight wins in a row, definitely answered the questions about where he’s headed. His mixture of brawling, slightly dirty tactics and patience yielded him the advantage on the scorecards, in a fight that at one stage looked destined for a stoppage.
It had all started so promisingly. Parker came out and immediately got to work, landing jabs and dictating an up-tempo first round. When the bell rung it seemed like the fighting pride of New Zealand was back to his best.
He’d seemed confident and calm when he walked to the ring, a definite departure from the overwhelming pressure written all over his face back in March before he fought Anthony Joshua.
But that was about as good as it got, at least until the final three minutes. Whyte stunned Parker by sending him to the canvas for the first time in his career, in only the second round.
There was conjecture over the knock down. The fighters looked to have clashed heads, leading to Parker dropping to one knee – but it counted.
There was no mistake about the second one. In the ninth, Whyte sent a left hook that connected with Parker’s head. He was down for the count, but by then, the writing was on the wall for the Kiwi anyway.
Once Whyte survived the opening barrage that Parker brought, he simply bullied him into a sometimes ugly war of attrition. Both men were visibly tired by the eighth round, so it’s a credit to their mindset that the fight actually went the distance.
However, if it’d only been 30 seconds longer, the result may well have been very different. Parker finally emptied his tanks in the 12th round, swinging for the fences at a stunned Whyte. The Englishman had probably gone into the round thinking all he needed to do was avoid a few tired, desperate punches, but ended up staring at the ceiling momentarily after Parker finally landed a shot to his head.
Whyte got up, and then wisely clinched to avoid another punch that could’ve sensationally flipped the script in the last seconds of the fight.
While the final stages provided a reminder that nothing is over till it’s over, Whyte deserved the decision. If anything the scores were kind to Parker, who stood in the middle of the ring and listened to the results of his second loss in a row.
This fight was always going to be a gamble for Parker. His promoter, David Higgins, took it literally and was foolishly goaded into a £20,000 bet with the hilariously manipulative and incorrigible Eddie Hearn at a pre-fight press conference.
Now he’ll be reaching for his cheque book, or at least an excuse to provide Hearn with an IOU. But while that relationship resembles more of a fast talking school kid picking on a classmate who just doesn’t understand playground hierarchy, the one between Higgins, trainer Kevin Barry and Parker will most likely be the one that everyone is interested in from now on.
But the fact is, we’re now just asking the same questions we were leading up to the fight.
Questions about motivation, career path, the possibility of one day getting another crack at Anthony Joshua. That last bit is looking unlikely, as Whyte has effectively jumped his place in the queue and will be targeting a deal to fight Joshua next April.
Exactly what the now 24-2 Joseph Parker decides to do by then remains to be seen.