Joseph Parker is ready to step up his ambitions to reclaim his World champion status as he faces Alex Leapai at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island on Saturday, live on DAZN in the US and on Sky Sports in the UK.
Parker (25-2 19 KOs) returned to winning ways at home in Christchurch, New Zealand in December with a third round stoppage following two blockbuster nights in Britain. The Kiwi first took on Anthony Joshua in a unification battle in Cardiff in March 2018, surrendering his WBO crown on points. Parker then returned to the UK and met Joshua’s old foe Dillian Whyte and served up a fight of the year contender in London in July, climbing off the canvas in the second and ninth rounds to floor Whyte in the final session, but being edged out on the cards.
Parker landed the vacant WBO title against Andy Ruiz Jr, whose recent stunning win over Joshua in New York has thrown the division wide open. The Kiwi was in the Big Apple that weekend after signing a promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing USA and Eddie Hearn, and the 27-year-old had warned that the Mexican was a real threat to the unbeaten Briton’s World reign.
With Ruiz and Joshua set to meet in a rematch later in the year, while Whyte meets Oscar Rivas in another blockbuster clash in England’s capital in a month’s time. With WBC king Deontay Wilder and former World champion Tyson Fury likely to clash in rematch in 2020, Parker knows he must see off Leapai (32-7-4 26 KOs) in style in Rhode Island to get into position to retain his World champion status.
“The only way to settle the score is to fight again,” said Parker. “I will fight any top fighter but I want to fight for World titles again, I know where I am and that I need to climb to the top again.
“Andy’s got a great chin and so do I. We’re different fighters from 2016, he’s improved dramatically and we saw that in the performance, and I am a lot better than I was when we first fought back then.
“Everyone was leaning towards AJ getting an easy victory but we knew what Andy presented and what he brought to the fight, so it wasn’t a surprise to us, but we didn’t know he was going to stop him like that so it was a surprise in that sense, but we knew he had the ability to put in a great performance like that so congratulations to him and his team.
“I don’t know how the rematch is going to go which is why it’s so exciting and people will look forward to it because we don’t know how it will unfold. We’re not sure if AJ is going to come back and look better, box from the outside, or if Andy is going to come and put on more pressure and throw more punches, so I am excited to see it again.
“Andy has got the blueprint to beat him. I wouldn’t say exposed him, but you put pressure on, throw punches and combinations and you do your best to land, that’s what Andy did. I am a different fighter to Andy, he takes a punch to give a punch whereas I try my best to avoid punches, but he showed that it works and he took some to land a lot more.
“Tyson and I have a great relationship, he’s kind of like an older brother in the same division as me. From the time I was with him in Manchester in September 2017 until now, he’s completely changed physically and mentally, he’s a lot happier. You never say never when it comes to fighting anyone.”
Parker’s clash with Leapai is part of a huge night of World title action in Providence as hometown hero Demetrius Andrade defends his WBO Middleweight strap against Maciej Sulecki and unbeaten WBA Super-Flyweight king Kal Yafai defends his strap against mandatory challenger Norbelto Jimenez.