ANALYSIS: Joseph Parker will look to get himself back in heavyweight title contention on Saturday night (Sunday NZT) when he returns to the ring against Jack Massey in Manchester.
Parker (30-3, 21 KOs) is coming off a knockout loss to Joe Joyce last September and is acutely aware that another setback against the unheralded Massey (20-1, 11 KOs) would effectively end his time at the top level.
Stuff’s boxing writers Duncan Johnstone, Sam Wilson and Mat Kermeen answer the big questions facing the former WBO titlist ahead of what is a make-or-break fight at Manchester Arena.
* Ice-cool Jack Massey sees life-changing chance against Joseph Parker
* Joseph Parker’s next fight to be shown on free-to-air TV in New Zealand
* Joseph Parker aims to start year ‘with a bang’
What’s an acceptable result for Parker?
Duncan Johnstone: This needs to be a statement return off his loss to Joe Joyce, so nothing short of a knockout victory. Massey is talking up his ability to go the full 10 rounds and Parker can’t let that happen.
Sam Wilson: It goes without saying that Parker needs to win to remain a serious player at heavyweight. A fourth defeat against a fighter of Massey’s stature would be terminal to his future prospects.
But the Aucklander is also under pressure to put on a show by taking out his smaller foe in eye-catching style – preferably early.
Coming off a knockout defeat, he simply can’t afford to labor his way to a dull decision that would all but confirm his powers are on the wane.
Mat Kermeen: A stoppage, pure and simple. A win isn’t enough against a career cruiserweight.
Massey has never been stopped before, but he’s been hurt and dropped by another 200-pounder in Richard Riakporhe. Even a dominant 10-round shutout won’t do here for Parker.
What challenges can a cruiserweight present to a heavyweight?
DJs: Oleksandr Usyk and David Haye have proven that cruiserweights can step up successfully if they are good technicians.
Substituting size and power with speed and movement, and staying busy with punches is the formula for winning over the judges.
MK: Massey’s strengths are his volume and maybe he should have a speed advantage by being a lot lighter. He likes the clinch but he won’t against a much bigger and stronger man in Parker.
Massey’s best hope is a one-in-a-million counter shot if Parker is recklessly looking for a big knockout early.
SW: Carrying a lighter frame usually gives them a speed advantage, but as we’ve seen with Usyk, cruiserweights typically don’t bring their power up with them, big-punching Brit David Haye being one notable exception.
The Ukrainian has gone the distance in three of his four bouts at heavyweight, relying on his superior ring craft and movement to outbox his opponents.
But Massey is nowhere near Usyk’s level and when in shape, Parker is one of the fastest heavyweights on the block. The Englishman will struggle to keep him at bay for 10 rounds if, as expected, he gets on his bike and tries to eke out a victory on the cards.
Has Andy Lee brought the necessary advances to Parker’s style to make him a contender again?
There’s a concern that Parker’s new stand and deliver style leaves him susceptible to taking damage. We need to see more movement again and a return of the snappy jab that sets him apart early on.
He still looks a rung down from the very top of the division and the rebuild job starts again off the back of his last loss.
SW: It’s too early to say after only three fights together. Parker was fortunate to escape with a win in his first bout with Chisorabefore putting on a clinic in their one-sided rematch seven months later.
He fought well in spots against Joyce, but it was a concern to see him come in at a career-high 115.84kgnullifying his speed advantage and allowing the big Brit to walk him down and dish out some heavy punishment.
Despite having 21 knockouts to his name, Parker is not a concussive puncher so bulking up and standing and trading in the middle of the ring is a questionable strategy.
Unfortunately we are unlikely to learn much about Parker’s progress under Lee this weekend. Judgment must be reserved for when he comes up against a legitimate contender.
MK: The second Chisora fight suggests yes, but Parker was sluggish against Joyce. His next fight will be the true litmus test as he won’t need to be anywhere near his best for Massey.
Should Parker broaden his horizons and look for fights outside Britain?
MK: Absolutely he should follow the money and any eliminator-type fight that comes his way, but Parker’s deal with Ben Shalom’s Boxxer may mean he won’t.
The promotional venture, which has an exclusive deal with Sky Sports UK, is likely to get the best return on its investment by Parker fighting in Britain.
DJs: Tricky equation for the fighter and his managers. He has gained a hard-earned reputation and following in the UK with the bulk of his fights there since 2016. But he’s at a stage now where he must consider any option if he can blast out Massey and move forward.
Opportunities to fight the likes of Andy Ruiz Jr, Deontay Wilder or Michael Hunter in the US shouldn’t be ignored. Go wherever the best money and opportunities to advance his career lie.
SW: While Parker’s new promoter Boxxer have an exclusive deal with Sky Sports in the UK, they have shown an admirable willingness to work with rival promotions and broadcasters, teaming up with Frank Warren and BT Sport to put on the Joyce fight.
Whether they would want the New Zealander fighting overseas in the early hours of the morning UK time is another matter. But if the right opportunity arises – such as a lucrative rematch with Ruiz Jr – then Parker and his team must do all they can to make it happen.
Finally, who wins and how at Manchester Arena?
SW: Massey has proven a durable customer, having never been stopped in his 21 fights. But he is taking a giant step-up in competition against Parker, a seasoned heavyweight with a point to prove.
However, I expect Parker to be firing on all cylinders this time with his career very much on the line.
Massey will frustrate him for the first few rounds by moving around the ring and pumping out his jab from behind a high guard, but the Kiwi will gradually break him down to the body before taking him out with a right hand over the top in the sixth .
DJs: Parker wins by knockout, chasing down Massey and having too much size and power.
MK: Parker was always going to have a relatively soft touch in his comeback from the third loss of his career, but Massey isn’t even anywhere near elite in the cruiserweight division.
He will give away significant reach, height, weight and experience and will eventually get stopped by Parker.
The Brit’s 20-1 record looks the part, but it’s padded to the point that it’s hard to work out his best win. Not known for his power at cruiserweight, it’s hard to see how he can be competitive or trouble Parker with just his high output.
The only thing in Massey’s favor is Parker has previously had a habit of dropping to an underwhelming opponent’s level – think Shawndell Winters and Razvan Cojanu – and making hard work of something that should have been easy, but those fights were long ago, well before he teamed up with Andy Lee.
If Massey comes out aggressive, Parker will ice him early with a right hand but if it’s a more cagey start, Parker will get the knockout – quite likely set up by his uppercut – he needs to stay on track for the big fights between rounds three and seven.