Joseph Dennis Parker, OM, is a New Zealand professional boxer of Samoan heritage. He held the WBO heavyweight title from 2016 to 2018, and previously multiple regional heavyweight championships including the WBO Oriental, Africa, and Oceania titles; as well as the PABA, OPBF, and New Zealand titles. As an amateur, he represented New Zealand at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the super-heavyweight division, and narrowly missed qualification for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Joseph Parker was born in South Auckland on 9 January 1992, to Dempsey and Sala Parker. His father Dempsey was named after world heavyweight champion American boxer Jack Dempsey. Parker grew up in a large suburb of Mangere in Auckland and attended Marcellin College in the suburb of Hillsborough. At the age of three, he enjoyed jabbing into his father’s palms and while he was still a young boy Dempsey gave him boxing gloves and a punching bag.
When Parker was growing up, he admired David Tua and Maselino Masoe who were from the same area as him. Parker is the middle child; he has one older sister, Elizabeth, and a younger brother, John, who is currently a professional boxer. He is of predominantly Samoan descent, with his ancestry roots going back to the Faleula Village on the main island of Upolu where his mother hails from.
Parker had success during his 66-fight amateur career, becoming a two-time New Zealand amateur heavyweight champion in 2010 and 2011, as well as winning several amateur tournaments and scoring some notable wins on the international circuit. Having his first fight at the early age of twelve, Parker grew and progressed, winning the 2009 New Zealand Golden Gloves Tournament in Palmerston North.
Parker started boxing internationally at sixteen years of age. His first international tournament was at the Commonwealth Boxing Championships in 2010 where he won silver. Parker’s first major event was the AIBA Youth World Championships in Azerbaijan. He was looked after by the Australian National Team Management as his coach Grant Arkell could not afford to accompany him. He was the sole representative of his country in the quarterfinals after he beat Turkey’s Yusuf Açik to face the Pan-American champion Yuniel Castro Chavez from Cuba.
After what was a busy season for Parker, he finished the year featuring in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. The then 18-year-old beat Canadian Didier Bence 14:7 in a fiery contest, charging home late in the third and final round when it appeared the fight was slipping away. Parker was down 7:5 on points when he landed a decisive right hand to Bence’s head with one minute 15 seconds remaining. It knocked the Canadian down and effectively ended the fight as Parker registered the last nine points. Parker then advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to Tariq Abdul Haqq.
Early career: Parker made his professional debut SkyCity’s Convention Centre in Auckland. Dean Garmonsway was chosen as Parker’s first opponent. A Hamilton physical education school teacher and former Waikato Rugby league representative, Garmonsway had only three professional boxing bouts, amounting to two wins and one loss. The bout featured on the undercard of Godfather of All Fight Nights, Shane Cameron vs. Monte Barrett title eliminator.
After scoring a number of consecutive victories in New Zealand and the US, Parker agreed to fight Francois Botha. Botha was known to be capable of landing a quality punch or two and had the ability to send fighters to the canvas, though Parker was considered the favorite to win. He defeated Botha in June 2013 by a second-round knockout over the former four-time world heavyweight contender.
Following his win over Botha, Parker extended his unbeaten professional record to seven wins on 10 October 2013 with a second-round knockout over Afa Tatupu at the Trusts Arena in Waitakere, Auckland. Parker secured the New Zealand National Boxing Federation title with a win marred only by a serious cut he suffered in the opening round when the fighters clashed heads.
It was confirmed that Parker and Carlos Takam would fight on 21 May 2016 in an IBF heavyweight eliminator. The winner would be required to fight for the world title against the reigning champion, Anthony Joshua of Britain. Prior to the fight being announced, Parker and his handlers twice avoided fighting Takam the previous year because of the risk involved. The fight took place with Parker winning a unanimous decision after twelve rounds, in front of a vocal home crowd at South Auckland’s Vodafone Events Centre in New Zealand. Two judges scored it 116–112, and one at 115–113.
WBO heavyweight champion
In late October, the Parker versus Andy Ruiz title fight had been officially sanctioned by the WBO. The organization had granted permission to Parker fighting Andy Ruiz for their belt with their championship committee voting unanimously in favor of the title fight. The belt was vacated by Tyson Fury, who was battling depression and drug issues and had not fought since November 2015 after defeating Wladimir Klitschko for the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles.
In December 2016, David Haye was made mandatory challenger for Parker’s world title, however, he chose to fight cruiserweight Tony Bellew in a heavyweight grudge match on pay-per-view. This pushed Hughie Fury to become next in line for a title shot. As speculation grew, confirmation of the Parker versus Fury fight became closer after promoter Frank Warren indicated he would be announcing details of a fight in the coming week.
According to Stuff on 10 May 2018, Parker’s team was looking at a potential clash against heavyweight contender Alexander Ustinov, with the fight having a possible revenge factor added to it. The reason behind this being Ustinov defeating and retiring David Tua in New Zealand in 2013. Promoter David Higgins believed the fight would be a big sell. A few weeks later, co-promoter Bob Arum was negotiating a deal for Parker to fight in Atlantic City, New Jersey on 18 August against Top Rank promoted Bryant Jennings.
On 3 October 2018, Sky Sports confirmed that Parker would return to New Zealand for his next bout in December, with the fight taking place in Christchurch. The fight would be Parker’s first in his home country in over 18 months. Parker’s opponent was later announced to be American boxer Alexander Flores, whose sole loss was to former IBF world champion Charles Martin in 2014.
Junior Fa rivalry
Parker and Junior Fa fought four times during their amateur careers, with two victories and two defeats each. Their first encounter was at the 2009 Boxing New Zealand National Championships held in Rotorua. The pair competed in the super-heavyweight final, Fa defeating Parker in a 8-4 decision. A month later Parker forced a second-round standing eight count and a points win over Fa in a Samoan Tsunami Boxing appeal event at the North Shore Events Centre, organized by David Tua.
Parker goes by the high chief name of Lupesoliai La’auliolemalietoa. Contrary to reports that the emerging star was bestowed a matai title, the village of Faleula revealed to him the name to bestow upon him the chiefly title of La’auli. The paramount chief of the village, Loau Keneti Sio, urged him to be a strong man. He bestowed his blessings on Parker, reminding him that the bestowed title is a gift and a blessing to him from the village.
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