Joseph Parker: Blueprint for the forgotten champion
Just like the middle child or the last pick for the dodgeball game, WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker finds himself in a very precarious position as the "forgotten" heavyweight champion among the division's three recognized belt-holders.
Often overlooked, Joseph Parker is not as revered as his champion counterparts Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder. Even non titleholders such as Kubrat Pulev and Jarell Miller generate more buzz than Parker outside the latter's native New Zealand.
With Joshua having defeated Carlos Takam by 10th round stoppage and Wilder set to rematch Bermane Stiverne on November 4th, the world is already 'beating the drums' for a Wilder vs Joshua showdown. However, there is no real mention of Joseph Parker whose last fight was an unimpressive majority decsion victory over Hughie Fury.
What can Parker do to raise his profile and secure a big fight?
Joseph Parker is one of the most criticized heavyweights in recent memory. Despite being an undefeated heavyweight with a 75 percent KO ratio and blazing hand speed, Parker is often criticzed as fighting for being to "safe" or "passive", especially in his biggest fights. Moreover, many fans believe his WBO title-taking win Andy Ruiz was deserved. Parker started very slowly increased his activity as the fight went on.
First title defense
Parker recieved even more crticism for his title defense, a unanimous decision victory over relatively-unknown, last minute replacement Razvan Cojanu of Romania. In a relatively tame affair, Parker again won by unanimous decision that fight was marred by fouls and taunting. Afterwards, Parker admitted that Cojanu's style gave him trouble. Fans and media were very critical of Parker's performance which prompted Dillian Whyte and cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew to publicly challenge the WBO champ.
Parker's resume is a little suspect as well as he has the makings of a "protected fighter." Twenty-one of his 24 fights have taken place in either Samoa or New Zealand. Nevertheless, he did travel to Manchester for his title defense against Hughie Fury. But his opposition hasn't been sterling. Outside of Fury or Andy Ruiz you would be hardpressed to find a "name" opponent on his ledger.
Kali Meehan, Afa Tatupu and Jason Bergman aren't exactly needle movers. Parker did, however, defeat Carlos Takam by decision in May of 2016. However Anthony Joshua just stopped Takam in a much more entertaining fight. Moreover, there were initial reports that Parker's camp twice rejected the Takam fight because of the danger it presented.
Paker's next challenger is reported to be WBO No.7 ranked heavyweight Kyotaro Fujimoto. Again, Fujimoto is not exactly a marqee name. In fact, Fujimoto's biggest win came against Nobuhiro Ishida who once competed at 154 pounds.
Respect and glory
With all that said, the road to prominence is very simple for Parker - He needs a signature win
After defeating his voluntary opponent, he should take on the best available contender. Jarell Miller, Luis Ortiz, David Haye, Dillian Whyte, or Dominic Breazeale would all make great matches and represent his biggest challenge to date. After that, Parker should challenge the winner or Joshua vs Wilder and attempt to stake his claim as the best heavyweight and the first undispued heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis (2004).
Parker appears to be a very careful and thoughtful young man. If he is willing to take a few chances, the blueprint to go from midcard act to center stage is there.