Upon touching down in New Zealand following a full training camp in Las Vegas, the first thing that heavyweight titlist Joseph Parker and his team noticed was the absence of his first title challenger Hughie Fury. The two are due to collide on May 6 in Auckland, New Zealand, but Team Parker openly questioned why his opponent and his team wouldn't have traveled abroad from England well in advance of his first career title fight.
"He’s not even here yet and hopefully they do come," Parker (22-0, 18KOs) stated to a group of reporters during a brief conference shortly after his arrival in country Saturday morning. "The fight is scheduled to happen May 6 and I hope they do come down so they can see what it’s all about, see what New Zealand’s about but also see what my fists can do in the ring."
It now appears that the defending champion won't get that chance to show Fury what he's capable of in the ring.
The scheduled heavyweight title tilt is officially in jeopardy, as the World Boxing Organization has reportedly declared Fury as disqualified from competing for their version of the heavyweight title. The reason and exact title status were both vague upon said declaration, but it appears as if Fury has only added to the recent family legacy of ruining heavyweight prizefights.
"As of today, it seems there will be no WBO Heavyweight World Title fight in New Zealand," WBO President Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel tweeted on Saturday evening. "It seems the problem lies within Team Fury."
Fury (20-0, 10KOs) was due to enter his first career title fight, but that is very much up in the air as this goes to publish. His woes come on the heels of his cousin, Tyson Fury disgracing the World heavyweight championship he acquired in a Nov. '15 win over Wladimir Klitscho, as drugs, alcohol and mental health issues led to postponements and cancellations of their planned rematch as well as keeping him out of the ring for all of 2016 and it appears through most of 2017 as well.
There was hope for the younger Fury to carry the baton, although his clash with Parker would have been his first piece of ring action since a technical decision win over Fred Kassi last April. In regards to traveling to Australia, there were concerns over Fury's father and head trainer Peter being able to secure a travel visa due to his past criminal record, although that issue was resolved.
Then arose demands for better travel accommodations than what was offered, although Team Parker doesn't quite grasp what more could have been done other than personally escort Team Fury onto a plane from England to Australia.
"We made an offer to them a while back that they could come out here six weeks before the fight," Kevin Barry, Parker's no-nonsense head trainer pointed out on Saturday. "Every international team that we’ve bought out here in the last four years, we’ve been very, very accommodating to them; we’ve put them in the best hotels, we’ve had drivers with them, we’ve flown them very well and it surprise me that they are leaving it to this late stage to arrive down."
Perhaps it was a reason all along to simply never follow through with the fight. Maybe they know something that hasn't yet made its way to Parker or the staff at Duco Events, which is hosting the event and is faced with the possibility of securing an alternate opponent to keep the show alive.
"Duco Events was today notified by the (WBO) that mandatory number-one challenger Hughie Fury has an injury, and will be unable to challenge champion Joseph Parker for the Heavyweight Title on May 6th in Auckland," DUCO Events press agent Craig Stanaway revealed in a press release. "The WBO has, therefore, advised Duco Events to investigate the possibility of Joseph Parker making a voluntary defence of his heavyweight title against an opponent ranked in the top 15 of the world rankings.
"Duco Events is currently investigating all options and will make no further comment today."
For now, Parker is proceeding as if he will still fight on May 6, an event he insists will mark his last call - at least for the time being - in New Zealand. The hope was that with a win, he would begin his world tour in searching for the best possible heavyweight fights, including potential unification clashes with Deontay Wilder or the winner of the April 29 clash between Klitschko and unbeaten IBF titlist Anthony Joshua.
Should his bout with Fury go on as planned, the next step would be to ensure that his opponent - whose team is due to host a press conference in Auckland on Wednesday, April 26 - gives himself every chance of emerging victorious.
"He’s never done jet-lag before, so for someone who hasn’t done it before, they should be down here acclimatising to the time and all sorts of stuff like that," Parker says of Fury. "I’ve done it before so I know what it takes to get my body used to it and I know I will be ready so I’m not sure how they’ll react to it but lets see what happens.
"It’s been an amazing week, the last week in Vegas has been great. Great sparring, great training, pad work, bag work, skipping, all of that so just let me show (Fury) what I’ve been doing in training in the ring when it comes May 6."