Hip to be square; Parker the hipster pick

The advent of social media has provided a platform for everyone should they desire one and magnified the good and bad of people within the three ring circus of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – if omitting Periscope, Snapchat and others I don’t even know doesn’t demean my conclusion too unduly.

Within this duopoly of love and hate, good and bad, the imperative to gather behind a message of cynicism or forge an individual path in the pursuit of notoriety consumes its devotees.  In reaching for an unconventional conclusion or opinion, those who divorce themselves from the received wisdom of the group are often motivated by the accumulation of the kudos they require in their quest to be considered ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ by people they’ve never met. Occasionally, this bears fruit and the minority view is proved to be correct or insightful, but usually, and by definition, more typically, its just misguided attention seeking.

Over the past week or two, as the muscular Matchroom Sports press machine limbered up to promote and process the unification bout between their charge, Anthony Joshua, and New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, it didn’t take long for a ‘hipster’ view to be aired. That opinion being that Parker, who holds the most lowly regarded of the four available belts, the World Boxing Organisation’s, and has failed to impress in any of his three 12-round fights for that strap, has the necessary tools to unseat Joshua.There are some figures, both at the heart and in the margins of this fight, who are driven by their vested interest in the commercial visibility and success of the promotion. In their suggestion that Parker is faster, technically better, more powerful and more durable than any analysis of his previous fights can legitimately illustrate they reveal themselves. There is a pay-per-view to sell and the most lucrative commodity in world boxing to protect. Building up Parker to be something other than the credible but unexceptional top-10 contender he actually is serves to improve the significance of the victory Joshua will presumably secure on Saturday. Alternatively, if Parker has success however fleeting, or heaven forbid wins, the loss on Joshua’s record is more positively contextualised.

I’ve variously seen Parker’s Amateur and Professional careers described as being more impressive than Joshua’s, his hand speed enthused about and his ability to take a shot, almost entirely based on his Samoan roots, providing foundation for the ‘Parker threat’ narrative. Added to this has been recognition of the ease with which he has handled the promotional obligations, a scandalous exaggeration of his power and much discussion about his rehabilitated elbows and newly confirmed lean build. All tempting threads on which to build the hipster pick; that the 26-year old will cause Joshua significant enough issues come Saturday that the IBF and WBA champion will be pushed to ‘gas’, as his detractors believe he’s prone too, and allow Parker to capitalise.

With history for the unconventional punt myself; Etienne to outbox Tyson, ‘Herol Graham would’ve beaten Marvin Hagler’ and, more topically, that David Price will find a way to beat Alexander Povetkin this weekend, I am not with out sin in this area. As the week unfolded I felt the inclination to justify an underdog pick rising and returned to source material to find evidence to support the conclusions being sold to me.

My conclusion? There isn’t much to confirm the pitch the salesmen are making. I rewatched the Parker v Andy Ruiz fight, one Parker would win narrowly on points and one in which he would cede ground, be rattled more than once and look disorganised on several occasions. He looked unable to deter Ruiz with power and often fought off the ropes. A glance at Ruiz’s physique on the night, and performances before and since, suggest this isn’t a flattering performance for Parker.

If Parker retreats to the ropes this weekend, regardless of the boxing IQ Robert McCracken considers him to possess, he will be in entirely the wrong place and unlikely to escape in tact.

In his clash with Carlos Takam, a fighter with new found respect since his courageous late notice shot at Joshua last year, the challenger held even less fear of Parker’s counter punches or sloppy jab. Burrowing forward, landing right hands Takam remained undeterred by Parker’s hand speed or power and proved a characteristically awkward, bullish, granite block of an opponent who few would relish competing with. Parker triumphed marginally over the distance. Should Parker go back with his chin held high as frequently as he did versus Takam, he will, again, be in enormous danger given Joshua’s reach advantage and devastating long range power.

Most recently, in a frustratingly one-paced contest with Hughie Fury, Parker looked pedestrian, bereft of any tactical adaptability and unable to throw the combinations he needed to to negate Fury’s elusive, back-foot style. He won, and clearly on two cards, but he failed to impose himself on an inexperienced opponent with modest power and a low work-rate. Any repeat of any of three performances above and Parker will be fortunate to get out of the first four rounds regardless of the old boxing adage that styles make fights or that he was poorly motivated or physically prepared for those contests.

As Joshua revealed this week, he has to prepare for the best version of his opponent there has been before, plus another percentage that opponents find when in the midst of their shot at the big time. In Parker’s case, despite the importance and validity of the contest, he will need to improve in every single department if he is to make good on his dream and the sales brochure peddled by Matchroom Sports, Sky Sports and a parade of respected voices within the media scrum.

For there is precious little evidence of anything other than a Joshua stoppage win.

And it may be early too. So, if you gamble, go with the dull, not the hip.


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