It hasn’t been glamorous but it has been effective. Zach Parker’s route through the super middleweight maze has seen him take on tough but unknown Australians, Americans and Uzbeks and led him to the number one position in the WBO world rankings. Just behind champion and modern great Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Parker has been expertly manoeuvred. Each opponent chosen for the challenge they would pose or the reward they would provide rather than their reputation but for all the benefits hard foreign opposition can provide, there comes a time when British is best.
A British rival provides extra spice. They bring familiarity, they bring soundbites and they provide the chance for comparison. Parker faces Manchester’s Marcus Morrison this weekend on BT Sport and can’t wait to prove how good he is. For all the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
“While I’ve been waiting for the big names I’ve been fighting these tough guys who can all really fight but nobody has heard of. It’s the right time to be fighting a British opponent who more people have heard of,” Parker told 32Red.
“He gave Chris Eubank Jnr a harder fight than most people thought he would. I know he had a couple of other defeats earlier on in his career but he’s come back from them and got better since then. I think he’s better today than ever.”
Realising the talent they have inherited, Frank Warren and BT have thrown their promotional weight and imagination behind Parker in a bid to raise his profile. He has driven tanks and posed with military equipment, paraded his title belts at Pride Park and broken down Saturday’s massive title unification fight between Canelo and Caleb Plant with Carl Frampton and Steve Bunce but this weekend could provide an invaluable piece of good old fashioned promotion.
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Despite his inconsistent results and performances at the highest level, Eubank Jnr is one of the country’s most high profile fighters and fighting Morrison gives Parker the ideal opportunity to better Eubank’s result. Boxing people may not pay much attention to things like that but to casual fans who watch boxing with their thumb hovering over twitter, it matters.
“I’ve just got to do my job and we’ll see what he does,” he said. “I think he got hurt in the first or second round against Eubank and then he closed up for a few rounds. He’s in for a tough night whatever though. He keeps saying I haven’t been tested yet but I’m really determined to do a good job.
“I do look at what other fighters and possible opponents have done against other fighters. If I can do a better job than Eubank did then it’ll be really good for me. It’ll put me on a few more radars and make people sit up and take a bit more notice and think, ‘This guy is good.’”
People are already beginning to notice. Parker is growing quickly into the role of headliner. In the few months since he signed a deal with Frank Warren, the 27-year-old has taken less than three rounds to become one of the promotion’s leading lights. His two fights have been quick, clinical and brutal but the way he has adapted to the limelight and produced his best work under the most intense scrutiny he has known may be the most impressive aspect of his rise from the wilderness.
“My first fight with Frank I got put top of the bill about a week before and it looked like it could be a tough fight against Vaughn Alexander. There was a bit of pressure on me but then I thought to myself, ‘This is exactly where I should be. I should be heading and fighting on these big TV shows.’ I’ve gotta stay focused on what I’m doing but I’ve also gotta be pushed.
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“I’m being made to look a top boy by Frank. We’re all loving it and we’ve all got a really good relationship. I’m not surprised by how quickly it’s happened. Neil said we needed the best person in the country for building fighters all the way up to world title level and Frank’s that man. He’s done it before with Ricky Hatton and Naseem Hamed and many others. Frank knows how to build people and I need to get used to topping bills.”
There will be many who believe Parker would be best served by biding his time in the number one position with the WBO, waiting for Canelo to handpick the most lucrative opponent possible and then fighting a ranked opponent for the vacant title. Given the power the Mexican superstar holds and his ability to jump up and down the weight classes, that remains a distinct possibility but if you believe that’s what Parker and his team are hoping for you would be dead wrong. He would jump at the opportunity to face Canelo.
“1000%. Before Canelo had the title it was Billy Joe Saunders I wanted. Whoever has that belt is who I want. Obviously Canelo has got Caleb Plant next and if he does win then we’re not sure what he’ll want to do. Will he move up to light heavyweight? Will he want to fight Gennady Golovkin again? If he does either he’ll have to vacate but Danny Jacobs, David Benevidez, Saunders. Any of them. I want the big names.”
Back to this weekend and the fight for the undisputed super middleweight title between Canelo and Caleb Plant in Las Vegas. Should Parker beat Morrison and maintain his grip on that number one spot in the WBO rankings it is unlikely he will be having an early night. Eyes will turn to the MGM Grand Hotel and the man he might one day end up sharing a ring with. Parker believes Canelo will complete his takeover of the division but that it may be trickier than many think.
“I think it’ll be a good fight. Plant’s not really been tested. He’s been a world champion but he’s made it look easy so far,” he said. “He hasn’t been hit much but Canelo hits hard so we’ll have to see how good his chin is. I think the first half will be Plant’s with Canelo going for the KO. Can Plant take the power? If Plant can win the early rounds it’ll be interesting in the second half. I do think Plant needs to hit Canelo with something to push him backwards though. We saw Golovkin move him back in their first fight and I don’t think he liked it. Plant isn’t in awe of him. We saw that at the press conference. This is the old gladiator style of things and you can’t give him too much respect.”