Boxing: Where next for Parker?

Everyone wants to know where Joseph Parker is heading. The promising New Zealand heavyweight has lined up Keith Thompson and Sherman ''The Tank'' Williams, but who might come next? Jack Salter identifies five future Parker opponents.

 

1. Alex Leapai

Age: 34.

Record: Thirty wins (24 KO), five losses, three draws.

The Samoan-born Australian was a relative unknown when he earned a world title shot against Wladimir Klitschko in April. He talked up his talents but failed to deliver when he was beaten by a fifth-round technical knockout.

Like many before him, Leapai was totally outclassed by Klitschko and struggled to get any shots on the Ukrainian, but his size, power and experience would be a definite challenge for Parker, whose fitness and reach would be key factors.

Leapai was previously ranked No 11 by the WBO, but following his loss to Klitschko has dropped out of the top 15 rankings. Even so, a super Samoan showdown might not be out of the question.

 

2. Steve Cunningham

Age: 37.

Record: Twenty-six wins (12 KO), six losses.

Cunningham would be a credible step up for Parker without being a massive danger. While he may not be the most naturally gifted fighter, he makes up for it with plenty of courage.

Ranked No 6 by the IBF, Cunningham was knocked out by England's Tyson Fury in round seven of a world title eliminator last year, despite dropping Fury in the second round. The American then took a year off and made a fine comeback in April with a unanimous decision over Amir Mansour.

A Parker v Cunningham battle could be a real crowd-pleaser from two high-volume punchers.

 

3. Lucas Browne.

Age: 35.

Record: Twenty wins (18 KO), no losses.

Browne could be a perfect fit for Parker as the New Zealander attempts to cut through the rankings.

The Australian is the WBC Eurasia Pacific Boxing Council and Commonwealth titleholder, and is ranked among the top 15 by all five governing bodies, with a high of No 7 by the IBF.

Known as ''Big Daddy'', Browne is a dangerous prospect with loads of power, but his limited mobility could suit Parker, who is maturing into an agile puncher.

Browne would be a real threat, but one that Parker should handle if he puts all his skills together, as he did against Brian Minto.

 

4. Tyson Fury.

Age: 25.

Record: Twenty-two wins (16 KO), no losses.

Ranked in the top 15 by all five governing bodies, including No 2 by the IBO and No 4 by the WBO.

Fury stands a lofty 2.06m, so Parker would face the unusual task of squaring off against a much taller fighter with an ego to match his 117kg frame.

While the Englishman is undefeated, the calibre of opponent he has faced and his chin are questionable. Cunningham, who is not renowned as a power puncher, proved that, as did relative unknown Canadian Neven Pajkic, in 2011, when he dropped Fury in the second round.

Fury would represent a big rise in class for Parker, and is probably a better fit for him in a year or two.

 

5. Wladimir Klitschko

Age: 38.

Record: Sixty-two wins (52 KO), three losses.

A potential world title fight between Parker and the heavyweight king is a long way off.

Klitschko has held the IBO and IBF titles since 2006, the WBO title since 2008 and the WBA title since 2011. Unbeaten since 2004, Klitschko's methodical style often leads to dull fights , but his win over Leapai was one of his most impressive in recent times.

The champion is incredibly smart with a near-perfect technical skillset. To win, Parker would have to be at the peak of his powers, and jab and weave with an unwavering determination to make every shot count.

A fight with ''Dr Steelhammer'' would be the ultimate test for Parker.

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