Joseph Parker’s management have done a clever job laying the foundations for his blossoming career by fighting largely in New Zealand with the occasional trip overseas.
But now that he is ensconced in the top ranks of the major organisations, it’s time for the 24-year-old to perform on bigger stages.
If he beats Carlos Takam in south Auckland on Saturday night, that will pretty much take care of itself. London and a date with the IBF champion, most likely Anthony Joshua, will be his destiny. Win that and the world is his oyster.
New Zealand will always be home but he has outgrown this market for now.
His profile is big here – as big as the leading All Blacks, Black Caps or Olympians. But he’s hardly a household name in some of the biggest boxing markets.
As he starts to hit his prime, it’s time to change that.
It’s almost embarrassing that a fight of such significance as Saturday’s – an eliminator to find the mandatory challenger to the IBF belt – is being played out in a stadium at the end of the earth that seats just 2500 people.
Parker needs to make the most of his home advantage against Takam for this really is his “backyard”. He can’t rely on that any longer if he really is to push on to bigger and brighter things.
A bolder statement would have been to front up to Takam in Paris, though the benefits of taking this golden opportunity in comfy surroundings are understandable.
Parker’s handlers have never been shy to think big. They now need to act big. Their man has to learn to not just survive but actually thrive in the sport’s biggest arenas with a global spotlight on him.
Right now, with the heavyweight market booming in Britain, London’s O2 Arena is the place to be.
Historically, and Parker is a keen student of boxing history, the United States remains the sport’s glamour market.
Parker has spent three years successfully using Las Vegas as his training base. Yet he’s still to actually fight in boxing’s “capital”.
To have come so far, so quickly without stepping into a ring in the gambling mecca, seems inconceivable.
Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand, the Mandalay Bay ... these are the sort of venues where Parker needs to be a poster boy.
And don’t forget New York’s Madison Square Garden, another shrine where he needs to shine.
Enjoy having Parker around for now but if he keeps his unbeaten run going, there will undoubtedly be bigger callings.
There have already been hints that he might be out-growing this market. Pay-per-view prices creeping up and limited tickets being officially auctioned for his latest fight are signs that the costs of keeping Parker in meaningful employment in New Zealand will become increasingly difficult.
There have been rumblings of discontent from the average fight fan but this is the nature of the sport and business that is boxing.
Rightly or wrongly, David Tua fought just eight times in New Zealand in a 59-fight career and five of those were when he was a fading force, looking to belatedly cash in on his fame here. Tua made his name by swinging his devastating left hook in the United States for his other 51 fights. He got close to the sport’s Holy Grail without getting his hands on it. But Tua’s name remains big in the game because he performed his deeds in a market that matters most.
Parker needs to take out Takam and then take on the world.
The idea Joseph Parker would have been better off fighting Carlos Takam in France to help boost his profile is fantasy.
If Saturday night’s IBF world title eliminator fight was to have been held in France, where Takam is based, it wouldn’t have created a ripple of interest.
Yet in New Zealand, quite rightly, it has been billed as one of the biggest sporting events to be held in this country this year.
For whatever reason, New Zealand has a love affair with heavyweight boxing. New Zealand is a bigger boxing market than many think.
A bigger population and the glitz and glamour of the likes of American boxing doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Parker’s career to date has highlighted just that.
Parker has fought in places like Invercargill, Palmerston North, Manukau and Apia, hardly hot spots on the world boxing scene. It is far from the traditional blueprint to follow on the way to a shot at a world title.
Despite this, the south Aucklander’s profile on the world stage, and ranking, still far outweighs most boxers who have less than four years as a professional.
At the same time as his name has gone global, Parker has also managed to fill his pockets fighting in New Zealand.
He has done it at a time in most boxer’s careers when they are still finding their way financially.
Would the Kiwi be in a better position now if those fights in New Zealand were instead held in a casino in Las Vegas? I doubt it.
His promoters have turned him into hot property in New Zealand while at the same time building his profile internationally.
Parker has made his name in world boxing by fighting in New Zealand and there is no reason that cannot continue as his career progresses.
Why wouldn’t he be eager for hometown advantage?
Yes, it is inevitable the 24-year-old will have to fight overseas soon, but it shouldn’t be the end of him fighting in his homeland.
In the not too distant future, he will fight outside his home country to make a play at a world title against the likes of the Britain’s Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, or American Deontay Wilder.
They have the belts, he’ll need to go get them.
The biggest boxing market at the moment is England, but don’t be fooled. This doesn’t need to be the end of Parker fighting in New Zealand.
If he does pry a belt or two away from the likes of Joshua, Fury and Wilder there is nothing stopping Parker returning to New Zealand to defend those world titles – even in small-town New Zealand.
Boxing is a television sport, the destination and venue are situated a long way down the list of importance. It may at some stage result in a Sunday afternoon bout in New Zealand to cater for an American or English Saturday night television market, but New Zealand can still be a viable option for Parker.