Former WBO world heavyweight champion Joseph Parker takes on Samoan born Alex Lepai who challenged Wladimir Klitschko for his titles in April 2014.
On paper this is a safe bet for Parker who showed his class in defeats to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, both fights taking place in the UK. There are those that thought that Parker deserved the win over Whyte, but interestingly, not the man himself, he was full of praise for the Brixton man.
Lepai’s career took a nose dive after the Klitschko loss. Further setbacks to Malik Scott and Manuel Charr showed that his days anywhere near world class were over. In Parker he will be facing the WBC’s No6 ranked heavyweight. Parker is levels above Malik Scott or Manuel Charr at this stage and should get a good win on his record against the Lepai who now resides in Logan City, Queensland, Australia.
The big talking point with Parker, ever since Joshua’s defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr is the fact that Parker is the only person to have defeated Ruiz as a professional, there has even been talk of a rematch if Ruiz successfully defends the titles against AJ later in the year. That would put the New Zealander in the heavyweight limelight again.
The losses to Joshua and Whyte knocked Parker out of that elite group of heavyweights that were always just a phone call away from a title fight. Joshua, Wilder, and Fury were and probably still are the elite, but of course three became four with Ruiz’s spectacular win. Then there were Ortiz, Whyte, Parker, Pulev and Povetkin, all tried and tested contenders. But Parker needs some big name wins to put himself back on that stage again.
At 27-years-old, Parker has time on his side, and with his new promotional contract with Matchroom USA and DAZN, it is likely that he will get that big name in his next fight. The Lepai fight sets the scene with the American boxing fans to reacquaint themselves with the former champion. Hopefully, Parker can show what a talent he actually is and get tongues wagging.
The 39-year-old Lepai has had 2 wins since the 2014 Klitschko defeat, but not against recognisable names that could give him any credit in world terms. Of course, a win over Parker would be a huge upset and could get the Samoan into same well paid fights, but his chances are poor to say the least.
Parker, despite his recent losses, is one of the best young athletes in heavyweight boxing. He has good power and can fight for the entire 12 rounds, just ask Dillian Whyte.
If Dereck Chisora gets back to winning ways on July 20th against Pole Artur Szpilka, and Parker wins against Lepai, then it is likely that Parker and ‘Del Boy’ will meet before the end of the year. The fight was spoken about earlier this year but Matchroom probably felt that to put it on a PPV show at London’s O2 Arena, both fighters needed wins over viable contenders.
Of course, it could be that Parker only has to sit and wait to see what happens in the Joshua vs Ruiz rematch. If Ruiz comes through with another victory, then he will most likely defend against the Kiwi to avenge his only career loss.
So, in a fight that has little interest to hardened boxing fans, it is very important that Parker not only wins, but looks good doing so, and I think he will by stopping Lepai before the championship rounds.