Andrew Gourdie: Why Joseph Parker has already won

Sunday Sport 21/01/2018

By Andrew Gourdie, sports reporter/presenter for Newshub & RadioLIVE.

OPINION: I see some people are already writing off Joseph Parker's chances, more than two months out from his fight against Anthony Joshua in Cardiff.

From where I'm sitting, Joseph Parker has already won.

It's not so long ago that the idea of Parker versus Joshua was a pipe dream. We were all talking about Parker's "path" to a fight with Joshua - a series of bouts in the UK against other leading British prospects like Tony Bellew and David Haye to build his profile in the British market to justify a meeting with the biggest draw in boxing. It would be a painful but necessary process to secure the fight. Joshua is a pay-per-view star, but he can't fight himself.

Yet incredibly, off the back of a couple of less-than impressive displays against lacklustre opponents in 2017 - some of the most underwhelming of Parker's career - he has somehow managed to jump straight to the front of the queue and secure the matchup that every heavyweight in world boxing is fighting for.

You have to ask: how on Earth has the boy from New Zealand earned a shot ahead of bigger names from much bigger markets?

The answer is David Higgins.

Whether you're a fan of his methods or not, Parker's promoter has pulled off a marketing miracle here. You might think he sacrificed his own credibility to make this fight happen but in the boxing world, the antics that helped secure this fight have merely enhanced his reputation. A respected boxing site this week had Higgins alongside Bob Arum, Eddie Hearn and Oscar De La Hoya in a poll asking who was the best promoter in world boxing. Hearn won by a landslide, but Higgins is in good company.

Whatever people think of him, it actually doesn't matter. A promoter's job is to talk and negotiate. Higgins has promoted his fighter so well that Parker versus Joshua became this wacky, intriguing fight that had to be made. It was as much about promoter versus promoter as it was champion versus champion for British fight fans. Take the belt off Parker, and put a sock in Higgins' gob.

Eddie Hearn enjoyed having a swipe at Higgins during the press conference in London as much as Joshua's fans enjoyed watching it. But those who think we should be embarrassed are missing the point.

The talk secured the fight.

How many fighters in the world would give anything to be humiliated in front of the world's media, if it was at a press conference to promote a bout between themselves and Anthony Joshua? Hearn wasn't firing shots from a distance - Higgins was seated at the top table right next to him. His job is done.

As for the idea he's damaged Parker's reputation by association? Garbage. The last time I checked, boxing matches are not won or lost in the pre-fight news bites and press conferences.

Some of the talk from camp Parker this week hasn't been to everyone's liking. The steroids comment from Parker was a mis-step, no doubt. If he loses, it'll be used as a stick to beat him with. If he wins, you'll have to go 20-pages deep in a Google search to find it.

Joshua is the favourite on March 31, no doubt. But Parker has a chance, because he's in the ring.

Very good fighters can go their entire career without getting a shot at the big time. Joseph Parker has got his shot. In that regard, he's already won.

Andrew Gourdie is a sports presenter/reporter and host of Sunday Sport on RadioLIVE from 2pm.