Joseph Dennis Parker, OM, is a New Zealand professional boxer of Samoan heritage. He held the WBO heavyweight title from 2016 to 2018, and previously multiple regional heavyweight championships including the WBO Oriental, Africa, and Oceania titles; as well as the PABA, OPBF, and New Zealand titles. As an amateur, he represented New Zealand at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the super-heavyweight division, and narrowly missed qualification for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Joseph Parker was born in South Auckland on 9 January 1992, to Dempsey and Sala Parker. His father Dempsey was named after world heavyweight champion American boxer Jack Dempsey. Parker grew up in the large suburb of Mangere in Auckland and attended Marcellin College in the suburb of Hillsborough. At the age of three, he enjoyed jabbing into his father’s palms and while he was still a young boy Dempsey gave him boxing gloves and a punching bag. When he was ten years old, he joined the Papatoetoe Boxing Club to pursue and learn more about the sport. He was trained by Grant Arkell and former boxer Manny Santos.
Parker had success during his 66-fight amateur career, becoming a two-time New Zealand amateur heavyweight champion in 2010 and 2011, as well as winning several amateur tournaments and scoring some notable wins on the international circuit. He followed up with a second placing at the New Zealand Elite National Championships, losing to rival Junior Fa.
Parker started boxing internationally at sixteen years of age. His first international tournament was at the Commonwealth Boxing Championships in 2010 where he won silver. Parker’s first major event was the AIBA Youth World Championships in Azerbaijan. He was looked after by the Australian National Team Management as his coach Grant Arkell could not afford to accompany him.
After what was a busy season for Parker, he finished the year featuring in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. The then 18-year-old beat Canadian Didier Bence 14:7 in a fiery contest, charging home late in the third and final round when it appeared the fight was slipping away. Parker was down 7:5 on points when he landed a decisive right hand to Bence’s head with one minute 15 seconds remaining.
Early career: Parker made his professional debut at SkyCity’s Convention Centre in Auckland. Dean Garmonsway was chosen as Parker’s first opponent. A Hamilton physical education school teacher and former Waikato Rugby league representative, Garmonsway had only three professional boxing bouts, amounting to two wins and one loss. After scoring a number of consecutive victories in New Zealand and the US, Parker agreed to fight Francois Botha. Botha was known to be capable of landing a quality punch or two and had the ability to send fighters to the canvas, though Parker was considered the favorite to win.
Title contention: It was confirmed that Parker and Carlos Takam would fight on 21 May 2016 in an IBF heavyweight eliminator. The winner would be required to fight for the world title against the reigning champion, Anthony Joshua of Britain. Prior to the fight being announced, Parker and his handlers twice avoided fighting Takam the previous year because of the risk involved. The fight contract for Joseph Parker vs. Solomon Haumono was finally signed off on 23 May 2016. This match-up was a long time in the making, with the pair having shown interest in fighting each other in the past. Haumono’s WBA Oceania and PABA heavyweight titles were initially on the line.
WBO heavyweight champion: In late October, the Parker versus Andy Ruiz title fight had been officially sanctioned by the WBO. The organization had granted permission to Parker fighting Andy Ruiz for their belt with their championship committee voting unanimously in favor of the title fight. The belt was vacated by Tyson Fury, who was battling depression and drug issues and had not fought since November 2015 after defeating Wladimir Klitschko for the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles.
Initial defenses: In December 2016, David Haye was made a mandatory challenger for Parker’s world title, however, he chose to fight cruiserweight Tony Bellew in a heavyweight grudge match on pay-per-view. This pushed Hughie Fury to become next in line for a title shot. As speculation grew, confirmation of the Parker versus Fury fight became closer after promoter Frank Warren indicated he would be announcing details of a fight in the coming week.
World heavyweight unification: On 7 November, it was reported that Australian boxer Lucas Browne had signed a deal to challenge Parker for his WBO title. Locations discussed were Parker’s home city of Auckland or Melbourne in Australia. Browne’s promoter Matt Clark stated that Browne had signed the contract and was now waiting on Parker to sign the deal. At the time, Browne was not listed in the WBO’s top 15 rankings, meaning he would need to fight for a WBO regional title to get ranked.
Consecutive defeats: According to Stuff on 10 May 2018, Parker’s team was looking at a potential clash against heavyweight contender Alexander Ustinov, with the fight having a possible revenge factor added to it. The reason behind this being Ustinov defeating and retiring David Tua in New Zealand in 2013. Promoter David Higgins believed the fight would be a big seller.
Junior Fa rivalry: Parker and Junior Fa fought four times during their amateur careers, with two victories and two defeats each. Their first encounter was at the 2009 Boxing New Zealand National Championships held in Rotorua. The pair competed in the super-heavyweight final, Fa defeating Parker in an 8-4 decision. A month later Parker forced a second-round standing eight count and a points win over Fa in a Samoan Tsunami Boxing appeal event at the North Shore Events Centre, organized by David Tua.
Parker goes by the high chief name of Lupesoliai La’auliolemalietoa. Contrary to reports that the emerging star was bestowed a matai title, the village of Faleula revealed to him the name to bestow upon him the chiefly title of La’auli. The paramount chief of the village, Loau Keneti Sio, urged him to be a strong man. He bestowed his blessings on Parker, reminding him that the bestowed title is a gift and a blessing to him from the village.
In early October 2016, Parker’s partner Laine Tavita said that she was expecting Parker’s child. A baby shower was held prior to it being announced, which Parker attended before flying off to prepare for his world title bout. He was not present when Tavita gave birth to their daughter, named after his sister and his mother, as he was in Las Vegas preparing.
In the build-up to his fight against Anthony Joshua in 2018, Parker said he had bought a new home for his family in New Zealand. During early July, he revealed he had a second daughter, Shiloh Jasmine Parker, on his social platforms to his partner Laine. On 25 May 2019, Parker and Laine welcomed their third daughter, Michaela Florence Parker.
Professional boxing record
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