Boxing
Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer 10d

Joseph Parker wants title unification fight with Anthony Joshua

Boxing

Heavyweight world titleholder Joseph Parker wants a unification fight with two-belt titleholder Anthony Joshua, and their camps are in talks, but his promoter said he has other options should that not come to fruition.

New Zealand's Parker, along with trainer Kevin Barry and promoter David Higgins of Duco Events, briefed the media at a news conference in Auckland, New Zealand, on Wednesday.

Higgins disclosed that he's in talks with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn about a unification fight with England's Joshua in March in the United Kingdom, which Higgins said was their priority.

Cutting a deal both sides feel is fair, however, will be difficult given how Higgins spoke of the discussions.

"What we're saying is that Joseph Parker and Anthony Joshua have signaled that they potentially fight next, as in March or April," Higgins said, but he added that the terms for Parker to travel to the U.K. have to be "fair and reasonable."

"Our message to the Joshua camp is, yes, we will take the fight, but the deal has to respect Joseph having earned a genuine world title," Higgins said. "The starting point for negotiations is obviously 50-50 but we would acknowledge that Joshua, if the fight were to happen in his home nation, he has a big fan base there. It might go a little his way, but not a lot."

Joshua, 28, has drawn big pay-per-view numbers in the U.K. and enormous sold-out crowds for his last two fights -- 90,000 to Wembley Stadium in London for his epic 11th-round knockout of former longtime unified champion Wladimir Klitschko in April, and 78,000 to Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales for a 10th-round stoppage of former Parker victim Carlos Takam on Oct. 28.

Higgins also outlined other options they are looking at for Parker's third title defense.

He said they are in advanced talks with Lucas Browne (25-0, 22 KOs), 38, of Australia. It would be a major fight in New Zealand and Australia, even though Browne failed two drug tests in 2016 -- one of which cost him a secondary world title. If that fight is finalized, it would be in early 2018, likely in Melbourne, Australia.

Higgins, who co-promotes Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) with Top Rank's Bob Arum, believes a fight vs. Browne would generate more money for them than the offer on the table to fight Joshua.

Higgins also mentioned two other possible fights, saying Arum put him in touch with a group in China that would like to bring Parker there to defend against Zhang Zhilei (18-0, 14 KOs), 34, who claimed the Olympic super heavyweight silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He also said Arum told him he has a March 10 date booked in Las Vegas for an ESPN card and that he would like match Parker with Philadelphia contender Bryant Jennings (22-2, 11 KOs), 33, who signed with Top Rank earlier this year.

Joshua usually trains in Las Vegas, but is in New Zealand for six weeks to train with Barry so he could be home for his daughter's first birthday this week, as well as his mother's birthday, which was also this week.

He may have options for his next fight, but he made it clear which one he wants.

"I want to fight Joshua," Parker said. "He has got two belts, I have one belt. I want to test his chin and put on a great show. He said he wants to unify the belts, so there's (titleholder Deontay) Wilder, then there's me.

"Those (other) fights would be good to keep busy, but the ultimate fight is to fight Joshua. He is the preferred option for us."

Barry also wants Parker to next fight Joshua.

"I think the guy is there for the taking, and I want us to get in front of him before someone else beats him," Barry said.

Higgins added he has also talked with the Wilder team about a unification fight, though it appears unlikely at this point, even though Parker was ringside for Wilder's defense against Gerald Washington on Feb. 25 and both titleholders talked about their desire to fight each other.

"Wilder's crew put a figure on the table that wasn't enough," Higgins said. "If they put the right money on the table, we would go to America and fight Wilder."

Parker, 25, won a vacant title by decision over Andy Ruiz Jr. in Auckland in December and has made two defenses. He won a lopsided decision against Razvan Cojanu in Manukau, New Zealand on May 6, and then he outpointed mandatory challenger Hughie Fury on Sept. 23 in Fury's hometown of Manchester, England.

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