Saturday, September 30, 2017

Belated Thoughts On Parker-Fury

Undefeated Joseph Parker emerged on the Heavyweight scene when he won the vacant WBO Heavyweight world championship in December of last year with a twelve round unanimous decision over fellow unbeaten contender Andy Ruiz. The victory for Parker not only established him as a player in the division, but added him to the history books as New Zealand’s first World Heavyweight champion.

After successfully defending his world championship with a twelve round unanimous decision over Razvan Cojanu in May of this year, Parker set his sights on what would be his second title defense against undefeated WBO number one contender Hughie Fury on September 23rd at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. This was an interesting fight in the sense that it had two fighters who one might argue were still looking for the respect and recognition of Boxing fans.

Fury, the cousin of undefeated former unified World Heavyweight champion Tyson Fury entered the fight unbeaten in twenty professional fights, but was coming into the bout off of a year of inactivity having defeated veteran contender Fred Kassi in April of last year. Fury suffered a severe cut over his left eye in that fight which caused the bout to be stopped resulting in Fury winning the fight via technical decision after seven rounds. The severity of the cut was largely responsible for Fury’s layoff and it is always an interesting to see how a fighter will respond after such inactivity.

What also made this encounter interesting was both Parker and Fury are not known for their punching power, but had each shown the ability to get an opponent out of there if the opportunity presented itself. The bout was the definition of a tactical battle. A fight that was frankly difficult to score. Although the champion was consistently aggressive throughout this fight, I felt the bout was largely dictated by Fury in that he was very consistent in using movement to offset Parker’s pressure as well as regularly throwing his jab, which made it challenging for the champion to get into an offensive rhythm.

Even though the champion would have periodic success in short offensive bursts as he came forward, he just couldn’t seem to land a significant punch that would clearly shift the tempo in his favor, in this observer’s eyes. At the end of the twelve round world championship bout, I arrived at a score of 116-112 or eight rounds to four in favor of Fury. The official decision however, would differ from my scoring of the fight as Parker would retain his title with a twelve round majority decision winning the bout by a score of 118-110 or ten rounds to two on two official scorecards while the third official judge saw the fight even at six rounds a piece or 114-114 in points.

A question I get asked from time to time when discussing my years covering the sport is does it bother me when there is a controversial decision and/or does it leave a bad taste in this observer’s mouth when the element of “Controversy” arises. Of course, there will be some that will point out the obvious that “Controversy” does after all have a way of generating buzz as well as stirring discussion/debate and therefore creates interest in the sport. As longtime readers know however, I have often over the years made the counter argument as to why too much “Controversy” ultimately does more harm than good for the sport.

Some may choose to call the outcome in this fight “Controversial” based largely on the scoring of two judges, who saw Joseph Parker winning ten of twelve rounds. Although I did not agree with the score of 118-110 in favor of Parker and can see how some might take issue with my 116-112 or eight rounds to four scorecard in favor of Fury, there are some factors that should be pointed out, which may clear up the questions some might have with regard to the scoring of this fight.

This was an extremely tactical fight that was fought at a measured pace. When fights are fought at such a pace the challenge for those scoring a fight both in an official and unofficial capacity is to distinguish which fighter gets the upper hand particularly in fights where fighters are able to have periods of success in each round. Speaking for myself, it was Fury’s movement and his being able to control the tempo of the combat as well as being able to keep Parker from getting his offense off consistently, which was the basis for my scoring though there were several “Swing Rounds” due to the pace in which the fight was fought and Parker being able to execute offense in spots.

Although I felt Fury had the edge in this fight, as readers have heard me utter frequently over the years when the subject of close fights is discussed, it will often boil down to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria in how they score based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense. From my perspective even though the champion was consistently aggressive, he did not land enough punches in those periods where he was able to execute offense in short bursts to sway my opinion as to who was getting the upper hand, but was able to win rounds particularly when Fury was not moving as much and was not able to keep Parker at distance, which is how I ended up with a 116-112 scorecard at the end of the fight.

One might assume that the two judges that saw Parker winning the bout by a wide margin scored based on his aggression and perhaps may have felt that he landed the harder punches of the two fighters even though he was not as active as the challenger. Only the judges themselves can comment on what they based their scores on, but it appears obvious that Parker and Fury might be heading toward a second encounter in the future. When and where a rematch between the two might take place is a question that could and probably will be debated because with the victory disputed by some or not, Joseph Parker has for the time being fulfilled his mandatory obligations by facing and defeating the WBO’s number one Heavyweight contender.

Whether or not the World Boxing Organization (WBO) mandates a rematch between Parker and Fury, who made clear his intention to file a formal protest of the decision in the days following the fight remains unclear. This observer believes it might be more likely that Parker will await the outcomes of the two remaining World Heavyweight championship fights scheduled in 2017, which will see undefeated champions Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua defending their respective portions of the World Heavyweight championship before deciding his next move. Whether that move comes in the form of an immediate rematch with Hughie Fury, an elective title defense against another top contender, or potentially facing one of the winners of either the Deontay Wilder-Luis Ortiz or Anthony Joshua-Kubrat Pulev championship bouts in an attempt to further unify the Heavyweight division is anyone’s guess.

 The year 2018 however, appears to be setting up some intriguing scenarios for the Heavyweight division. Scenarios that will likely generate discussion and debate among Boxing fans and experts as to what may or may not happen. Although the subject of “Controversy” could be a topic in such discussions, the more interesting question just might be if any of the current world champions in the division can emerge as the one “Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Of The World” in the new year. With two World Heavyweight championship fights still to come in 2017 the landscape in terms of the top of the division could change, but let the discussions of what may or may not be in store for the Heavyweights in 2018 begin.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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