Joseph Parker vs Junior Fa divides New Zealand – heavyweights battle for local pride but also world title ramifications

Joseph Parker is No 3 and Junior Fa is No 5 with the WBO; they are each within grasp of a world title fight; could Derek Chisora be next up for Parker?

James Dielhenn

A future world championship challenger will be decided on Saturday morning in a far-flung outpost where a heavyweight champion was crowned as recently as 2016.

Joseph Parker and Junior Fa are New Zealand’s two top heavyweights – they share a nation, a home city, and even a local Mormon church.

There is a deep respect between them owing to their Pacific heritage and the fights they shared as amateurs but this fight, although rooted to its local community, has major ramifications on the world stage.

Local rivalry on the world stage

Parker and Fa are both from Auckland on New Zealand’s north island. Parker’s ancestry is Samoan, Fa’s is from Tonga.

As amateurs they shared the ring four times, perhaps inevitably as the outstanding talents of their country, winning twice each although they each dispute that 2-2 record to this day.

But Parker became their country’s first world heavyweight champion five years ago, leaving Fa in his shadow, when he won the vacant WBO belt against Andy Ruiz Jr (whatever happened to him?) in Auckland.

In the very same venue Parker will collide with Fa on Saturday – it is somewhat of a crossroads clash and that’s what makes it a fascinating fight with global interest.

Parker lost his world title to Anthony Joshua and was beaten by Dillian Whyte too. Fa, unbeaten in 19 but without a standout result on his record, will sense an opportunity.

The plot thickens due to their WBO rankings – Parker is No 3 and Fa is No 5. That belt will be at stake in Joshua and Tyson Fury’s proposed fight, then Oleksandr Usyk and Joe Joyce are in line for the next shot.

The winner of Parker and Fa could reasonably be looking at a world title fight by the end of 2021 or certainly next year.

Is Derek Chisora next?

Parker’s manager David Higgins said: “Yes, it is correct that promoter Eddie Hearn and Matchroom and Duco and Joseph, we’ve discussed that if Joe can get past Fa.

“I want to be absolutely clear, Joseph is absolutely not looking past Fa, he has never looked past anyone.

“We’ve held talks and there’s no secret there is unfinished business between Parker and Chisora. That fight was made, only to be undone by an errant spider who bit Joseph, and then Chisora went a different direction.

“But styles make fights and that would be a cracker. Probably the heavyweight fight of the year. Joseph is confident that he could beat Chisora, so we would take that fight in a heartbeat, should Joe prevail this weekend.

“Chisora, their camp, David Haye has been in touch. I think it’s one of those exciting heavyweight match-ups that hopefully can be made without too much drama to give the fans a blockbuster, and it would be as soon as May.

“As long as we get the right result, the business is taken care of quickly, then we would absolutely look at backing up quite quickly.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen with Joshua and the WBO belt. Should that free up, or become vacant, I think it’s sensible that people earn the right to fight for a world title and beat the contenders on the way through.

“Eddie Hearn was quite open about this, a plan where Parker fights Chisora and then following that, Usyk-Joyce, and then the winners come together. That makes a lot of sense.”

Parker told Sky Sports: “Take care of Junior, then fighting Chisora, then fighting the winner of Usyk and Joyce.

“I’d love to take care of business on Saturday then come to the UK and take care of business, then not far off that, fight for the world title.”

Respect turning to conflict

A judging controversy has broken out in the past week – though both boxers fighting in their home city of Auckland, the possibility of using judges from Christchurch has ruffled feathers.

Kevin Barry, Parker’s trainer, is from Christchurch which doesn’t sit well with Fa’s camp.

“We looked at the list of judges,” said Fa’s manager Mark Keddell. “The Barry family are a very successful Christchurch family, and we just thought there was a couple of Auckland boys fighting, so we should have Auckland judges.

“We felt pretty strongly about that.”

Fa’s trainer Eugene Bareman joked: “We definitely didn’t want Kevin’s mate from the pub to be one of the judges.”

Parker’s manager Higgins added: “We’re actually a lot more relaxed about it, because when Junior is lying on the ground, it doesn’t matter who the judges are.”

Parker has already reached the summit as a world champion but is still just 29. How much hunger he has to climb back to the top, beyond the ambitious Fa whose goals have yet to be reached, could decide this fight between New Zealand’s top heavyweights.

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