Joseph Parker’s world heavyweight title fight in New Zealand has been officially sanctioned by the WBO.
The WBO are holding their annual conference in Puerto Rico and the organisation has given the green light to Parker fighting Andy Ruiz for their belt with their championship committee voting unanimously in favour of the title fight.
The bout will be held in Auckland on December 10, most likely at Vector Arena.
The belt was vacated by Tyson Fury who is battling depression and drug issues and hasn’t fought since last November when he beat Wladimir Klitschko to snare the WBO, WBA and IBF title.
The WBO had hinted at having a four man box-off to sort out their belt but it have gone down the route of their own rules book which gives No 1 ranked Parker the first rights to challenge.
With No 2 ranked Klitschko targeting the WBA belt, now likely in a fight against Australian Lucas Browne in Hamburg on the same date, that cleared the way for No 3 Ruiz to step up against Parker.
Parker’s promoter Dean Lonergan was at the WBO conference but was now returning to Los Angeles to sort out the fine print of the fight contract. Duco Events confirmed the WBO decision but wouldn’t comment officially on fight details until all the relevant paperwork had been signed
It’s a coup for Parker’s promoters Duco Events who have quickly bonded with Ruiz’s backer Arum, one of the most respected names in the game and an influential figure with the WBO.
Arum was keen to see the fight delayed until January because of training conflicts for Ruiz. But Duco bosses Lonergan and David Higgins have managed to convince him of the importance of having the fight in December to maximise the corporate backing needed to fund such a massive promotion.
Arum was always keen for the fight to be in New Zealand, recognising the historical significance of it. He believed it was the best venue to generate the most money.
He said a neutral referee and judges had been part of the agreement to fight in New Zealand.
The fight has a good feel to it as a spectacle, befitting its status.
The 27-year-old Ruiz from Mexico is unbeaten over 29 fights with 19 knockouts. Parker, 24, is unbeaten over 21 fights with 18 knockouts.
Both fighters have fast hands and plenty of power to suggest the fight won’t go the distance.
It’s a good match-up for Parker physically, in an age where the belts are being dominated by giants.
The 1.93m Parker will enjoy a 5cm height and reach advantage over Ruiz.
Both fighters are in camps in the United States preparing – Ruiz in Big Bear, California and Parker in Las Vegas.
Arum believes the fight is ideal for Ruiz to have a shot at the big time.
“My [matchmakers] think Andy has a hell of a shot. The kid is pumped because apparently he’s sparred with Parker and more than held his own. I’ve seen some of Parker’s fights on YouTube clips. He’s a tremendous puncher but he doesn’t look to me to be particularly fast and Andy is a very fast heavyweight,” Arum told ESPN.
“If he wins the title Andy will be a very valuable fighter.”
The WBO decision was made with the proviso that British heavyweight David Haye, the former WBA champion, had been given mandatory status by the WBO to their belt.
That would see the winner of Parker v Ruiz needing to defend against Haye within 120 days of their victory.
Lonergan indicated he was comfortable with that.
A unification fight would still take precedence over the mandatory and and unification was where the big money was, putting Parker in a prime position if he could get past Ruiz.
The real benefit in fighting Haye would be to raise Parker’s profiel in the UK ahead of a unification fight with IBF champion Anthony Joshua.