JOSEPH PARKER V ALEX LEPAI: BEGINNING ANOTHER JOURNEY TO THE TOP?
June 29th sees the 2019 return of New Zealand heavyweight Joseph Parker, who fights Samoa’s Alex Leapai as the chief support to the WBO title fight between Demetrius Andrade and Maciej Sulecki this Saturday night in Providence, Rhode Island.
This is Parker’s first fight since signing with Matchroom and his first high profile contest since unanimous decision losses to both Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte in 2018; rematches that could now easily be remade with all three under the same promotional banner and defeats which Parker says he would love to redress,
“I would love to avenge those loses that I have had against Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte. I’ll fight them tomorrow. Dillian is trying to fight for the WBC title so respect to him for that, but if that fight came along I would love that fight again.”
Alex Leapai (32-7-4) is a replacement opponent for the withdrawn Eric Molina, and one whom at 39 is indisputably beyond his peak. He has fought six times since 2014, losing against Wladimir Klitschko (fifth round TKO), Malik Scott (UD) and Manuel Charr (UD), drawing once with Roger Izonritel and winning against the oft-defeated Thomas Peato and a 2018 rematch with Roger Izonritel.
Yet as is the want of all successive underdogs, comically, he is channelling – and indeed challenging – the herculean spirit of newly crowned IBO, IBF, WBA and WBO champion Andy Ruiz: “I am the Samoan Andy Ruiz, the guy everyone writes off…this will be the second massive upset this year because Parker is getting sparked. Then I’m going to take Andy’s snickers off him!”
As entertainment, that’s a terrific soundbite. In actuality, there is little to no chance of either of those events occurring. Parker has never been stopped, despite sharing the ring with heavy-hitters Joshua, Whyte and Takam. He has also already defeated Andy Ruiz Jr, winning the WBO heavyweight title via a majority decision in Auckland back in 2016; and will no doubt have been buoyed by his previous opponent’s recent elevation in status and fortune.
The heavyweight landscape has shifted and changed since Joseph was last majorly involved. Getting Saturday out of the way, ‘making a statement…and looking good,’ as he has expressed a desire to do, in conjuncture with his signing to a Matchroom and DAZN stable which includes Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte, Oleksandr Usyk, Murat Gassiev, Filip Hrgovic, Michael Hunter and Dave Allen, means it should not be long before he finds himself once again in some entertaining and world-level/championship fights; and once again chasing down ownership of that WBO belt.