What Joseph Parker intends to do on December 23rd in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is the definition of spoiling the party.
While the Saudi megashow may be a feast for boxing fans, the hopes of two of the heavyweights on the card seem to be purely an entrée to the main course, with Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder anticipating their victories by agreeing to fight each other in March 2024.
Standing in the way are their two respective adversaries: tricky Swedish southpaw Otto Wallin for Joshua and former world champion Parker for Wilder. Parker considers he has a chance to upset Wilder, training with two people who know “The Bronze Bomber” better than most.
Parker spent some intense few weeks in Ireland and Morecambe, England working out with a man he calls his brother, WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, and under the watchful eye of coach Andy Lee, who was in Fury’s corner when he beat Wilder for the first time.
All three have been drawing up a plan to defeat the big-hitting American.
While Lee and Fury are cousins, Parker (33-3, 23 KOs) has become an honorary member of the clan and a key part of “The Gypsy King’s” inner circle after living in Morecambe on and off for the best part of two years now. They’ve all put their heads together once more for another clash with Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs).
“I feel very confident with the game plan that Andy’s come up with,” Parker told ESPN. “We’re getting good advice from Tyson. He’s the only man who’s been in the ring with him three times and beaten him twice [with one draw].
“I have a really good set up in Ireland and in Morecambe Bay. One of [my] fights I used Tyson’s house, which he gave me to use for camp. I have an apartment which I stay in when I’m in Morecambe.”
As the boxing world descends on Riyadh for a card that also includes Dmitry Bivol defending his WBA light heavyweight title against Lyndon Arthur, Parker and his team will be putting the finishing touches and final thoughts on his plan to upset Wilder. And Parker not only intends to spoil them, but also to hatch a plan of his own. At 31 years old, he believes time is more on his side, rather than Wilder’s.
“Not taking anything away from Deontay Wilder and his team, but he’s had his time,” Parker said. “What is he 37, 38 years old? Everyone thinks that Wilder is the favorite, let them think that. Let them say what they want to say. It’s going to be a big party and I’m going to be there to spoil it.
“They’re trying to set up this massive fight, of course it’s going to be a massive fight, but when you count out the others that are involved, it could be your downfall.”
How to avoid Wilder’s vicious right hand, which has helped earn him 42 knockout victories, is the question that Parker has faced the most in the buildup to the fight — and the burning one that will greet him in the ring, but it’s one he swats away with confidence.
“A lot of people are telling me to be wary of his right hand,” Parker said. “No, he has to be wary of me and what I’m going to bring.”
Parker’s plan will rely on his movement, doing all he can to dodge that right hand, and his speed. Match fitness will be of no concern for him, while the same can’t be said for Wilder.
Their respective calendars couldn’t be more contrasting. With just one round of boxing — a routine knockout victory over Robert Helenius over a year ago — since his last fight versus Fury in October 2021, Wilder has been gym-bound, either unwilling or unable to find a dance partner to get back in the ring with.
By contrast, Parker has been busy, fighting three times in 2023 — three wins, two by knockout. Not that they were the most challenging of fights, but they provided valuable time in the ring and in meaningful camps in the buildup.
Parker himself has endured periods of inactivity, and by his own admission has been far from his best upon return, so he knows how valuable it is to be in the ring regularly.
“I feel that being active, you’re able to work on things and keep in shape, and there’s nothing that beats fighting in the ring in front of a big crowd and preparing for a big fight,” Parker said. “It just depends, for Wilder, is ring rust a thing for him, or can he shake it off and come in fresh? Those are going to be big questions that we’re going to see on fight night.
“You can do all the sparring with different sparring partners. You can do weights, running, punch the bag, pad work, but nothing compares to fighting.”