Joseph Parker's upcoming title defense versus Hughie Fury will provide yet another watershed moment for the very site on which he first claimed his heavyweight belt.
The unbeaten New Zealander made history for his nation in becoming its first ever heavyweight to win a major title in the pro ranks, doing so with a win over Andy Ruiz in their vacant title fight last December. Their bout took place at what was known at the time as the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, which hosted its first-ever boxing event that evening.
His May 6 showdown versus Fury will mark the first boxing event since the venue has undergone a transformation and a rebranding, with the site now known as Spark Arena effective April 19 NZST. The name change comes as the site ended its 15-year business relationship with Vector Limited, which had been on board since inception in 2002.
A new deal was reached with Telco provider Spark New Zealand, effective April '17. New Zealand's favorite boxing son was tabbed to help christen the revamped arena, which seats 12,000 for boxing events.
Parker (22-0, 18KOs) has been kept active through five years as a pro - so much that the five months between bouts will mark his second-longest inactive stretch in the pro ranks. The 25-year old stepped way up in class in 2016, yet still managed to jam in five fights on the year. Chief among his highlights was his hard-fought 12-round win over Carlos Takam last May to prove his worth as a heavyweight contender, and of course his vacant title winning effort in outpointing the previously unbeaten Ruiz last December.
Now it his challenger who takes a big leap in competition heading into his own first title fight.
Fury (20-0, 10KOs) will be out of the ring for exactly 53 weeks by the time their May 6 encounter arrives. The cousin of unbeaten former World heavyweight king Tyson Fury has been out since a technical decision win over Fred Kassi last April in his native England. He burst onto the scene with 12 fights in his first year as a pro in 2013, only for his career to be slowed down by health issues and injuries. Just eight fights have followed in the past three years, his biggest victories coming versus Kassi, Dominic Guinn and Andriy Rudenkol, all three of which went to the scorecards.
There was an opportunity for Fury to take on domestic rival Dillian Whyte for a regional title, but the matchup was bypassed as his team held out for a title fight versus unbeaten countryman Anthony Joshua, the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist for Great Britain who has moved on to much bigger and better things in the pro ranks, including his upcoming defense versus former World heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko, whom Tyson Fury dethroned in Nov. '15.
Meanwhile, the younger Fury was steered towards a crack at Parker, marking his first career trip to New Zealand and just fifth overall outside of the United Kingdom.
Parker has fought almost exclusively in New Zealand, save for two bouts in the U.S., one in Germany and one in his parents' birth country of Samoa.