It is the dream of every young boxer coming through the professional ranks… The dream to be spotted as a fledgling prospect and given the opportunity on the biggest stage. It’s one thing to be given an opportunity – it’s another to take it with both hands… and to not let go.
Zach Parker (14-0, 10KOs) has taken this opportunity. Not once, but twice.
A highlight reel knockout of Luke Blackledge on the undercard of Callum Smith vs Erik Skoglund in Liverpool caught the attention of fans, pundits, and promotors, triggering a domino effect of events that would change the course of this young man’s boxing career.
A swift signing by Kalle and Nisse Sauerland followed, and Parker found himself making his second World Boxing Super Series appearance in almost as many weeks. The young Woodville man was flown to Stuttgart, Germany to fight on the undercard of Chris Eubank Jnr vs Avni Yildirim. Another solid performance on foreign soil signalled the end of a fascinating year for Parker, who did not seem to be fazed by his meteoric rise in mainstream boxing.
‘’It’s all a bit mad really! A year ago, I was boxing on small hall shows, they weren’t very big cards. Now I am with a massive promotional company in Sauerland and I am fighting on the undercard of some of the biggest fights in boxing right now. I could be fighting George Groves or Chris Eubank Jr this weekend if one of them pulls out! It’s crazy!’’
Less than six months after Parker’s first big break under the bright lights and glamour of televised boxing, FightTalk.net caught up with the hotly tipped 168lbs contender ahead of his third appearance on a World Boxing Super Series undercard. A former Spanish Light Heavyweight champion in Adasat Rodriguez presents the next challenge for the 23-year-old, who was the definition cool, calm, and collected ahead of the biggest week of his boxing career.
‘’I’ve just come up here for the presser. I am nipping back home after this to finish up the rest of camp. Then I will be travelling back to Manchester towards the end of the week for the weigh-in.’’
Home is firmly where the heart is for the young, unbeaten prospect. Initially, I was unsure as to why Parker would bother making the journey back to his residence in Derbyshire, so close to such a pivotal weekend in his career? It seemed a two-hour trip that could have been side-stepped. It then became apparent. A rich tapestry of boxing history in the family soon began to unfurl, as Parker divulged the collision course himself and boxing had been set upon since birth.
‘’All my family did it, so it’s been drilled into me since I was about 4 years old. My Dad [Darren Parker] was a professional boxer and my brothers are also boxers [Dwayne and Lee Parker]. So, it really has been drilled into me from day dot. My cousin, Connor Parker, is also a professional. It’s very strong in my family.’’
‘’We are like the Smiths, but the Parkers!’’ Zach jested, referring to the four Smith brothers that have been building their legacy on Merseyside for the last decade.
Could a similar tale be unfolding in the Midlands?
Interestingly, Zach’s father, Darren, faced off against Chris Eubank Snr in the early days of his career. A 5-0 prospect at the time, Senior bested Darren Parker at the Effingham Country Club in Copthorne. This came years before the world titles. This came before that rivalry with Nigel Benn. This came before the showmanship we have become accustomed to. This is way back in 1988.
30 years later, Zach Parker finds himself as a reserve to the Groves v Eubank WBSS semi-final, should one of the men pull out. History has a funny way of repeating itself… Stranger things have happened… Could we possibly see the two sons follow in their father’s footsteps all these years later?
I was in attendance to witness Parker’s demolition of Luke Blackledge. Blackledge is a familiar name on the 168lbs circuit. A handy operator and certainly no pushover, his resume boasted the likes of proven competitors in Callum Smith, Erick Skoglund and Rocky Fielding. Despite coming up short on all occasions, he was respected as a sturdy opponent, and questions were raised as to whether Parker was ready for this kind of test so early on in his career.
‘’I started off as a professional three years ago. I was piggish. I was fighting on smaller shows and I got given the chance to box against Luke Blackledge. Everyone thought I was going to lose that fight. They said I didn’t have enough experience and I proved a lot of people wrong by getting him out there in one round. He’s been in there with some of the biggest names. But I knew as soon as I got in there. I was too big for him. I could see in his eyes. I knew I had him.’’
If you blinked, you would have missed it… The confident Super Middleweight blazed into the Echo Arena in Liverpool to ‘Talkin The Hardest’ by Giggs, knocked his man out in quick time fashion, and then left. The whole scenario must’ve taken less than 10 minutes from start to finish, and I doubt Parker even took the time to take in the exquisite nature of the now-familiar travelling circus style set up of the World Boxing Super Series.
A short but sweet cameo, that left a lasting taste in the mouths of many…
‘’They gave me the chance to fight on that card and straight afterwards I heard that the Sauerland’s wanted to sign me. I got signed up two weeks after and I boxed in Germany on the Eubank Jr card. It just keeps getting better and better, I’m on the Groves v Eubank card now and mandatory to Rocky Fielding’s British title. So hopefully after this fight, get myself the British after this fight… Assuming no one pulls out.’’
Whispers began to circulate the boxing community last month as Parker was announced as the reserve fighter to this weekend’s main event. Rumours of a Eubank Jnr pull-out began to gather pace, as the ever-dramatic landscape of ‘Boxing Twitter’ took the news and began to run with it, with classic, bullish fantasy. I asked Parker if a late withdrawal would affect him in anyway before Saturday.
‘’I am prepared. I am 100% prepared. This is what I am in boxing for. I have dreamt of this since I was a young lad. If one of them pulls out, I am ready to go!’’
The calmness surprised me. The prospect of a world title tilt on less than a weeks notice would unnerve even the most seasoned of professionals. At only 23-years-of-age, Parker was taking every obstacle and outcome in his stride. I gleaned a young man who was fully focused on his dream. As unconventional and unexpected as this journey may have been thus far, Parker gave me no reason to doubt his readiness for future challenges.
Ricky Summers and Lennox Clarke have provided chief sparring, alongside a camp in the unforgiving altitude of the Tenerife mountain ranges. No stone has been left unturned for the man who, quite literally, could be facing anyone this weekend.
‘’I am training all year round anyway. Whoever I am fighting I am ready. I don’t watch a lot of tape of anyone to be honest, I just focus on myself. I am ready for Adasat if I am boxing Adasat. If I’m boxing Groves or Eubank, I am ready for that as well. I think he [Rodriguez] is a tough fighter and comes forward a lot. So, if that is the case, then he will be walking onto a lot of shots.’’
As I probed the intricacies of how Parker ended up as a reserve for the biggest fight on UK soil so far this year, the details became unearthed, as Parker described his route that lead him to his date in Manchester this weekend.
‘’I was meant to box on the Callum Smith undercard, against Stefan Haertel. A good fighter, 15-0. He pulled out for whatever reason, so now I am fighting on the Groves-Eubank undercard, and I have this Adasat Rodriguez now. I was then made a final reserve in case of a pull out. It’s all good.’’
With the uncertainty surrounding the reserve status of Parker for this weekend’s proceedings, his mandatory position for the 168lbs British title is often brushed over. Zach was keen too remind me, as he solidified his wishes to face off for the belt as soon as possible.
‘’It all came at once really. It was a British eliminator against Luke Blackledge. When I got rid of him in a round it sort of put me beyond Midlands Area. I was meant to have another eliminator against John Ryder, but he didn’t want to fight me, so I was made mandatory to Rocky Fielding. And hopefully I box for the British in my next fight.’’
Fielding added the Commonwealth Super Middleweight strap to his British in September of last year, making light work of David Brophy in another night of action in Liverpool. With Fielding’s next outing slated for 3rd March, and former WBSS competitor, Jamie Cox earmarked as a potential opponent, Parker may find himself playing a waiting game for his shot. Oozing confidence, Parker continued to state his intentions and willingness to fight any man in this 168lbs domestic pool.
‘’If Rocky Fielding wants it. I am full happy to box him. One million per cent. I think he will vacate the British though. I think he wants a bigger money fight. He wants to go on to world titles, he has been at British level for a while! But if he wants that fight, I am 100% ready for it.’’
After today’s press conference, Parker will return to Derbyshire. The final few days spent with his team will be used for rest and conditioning down to the weight ahead of Friday. A strong team stand united with Zach Parker. Trained by Paul Mann and Errol Johnson, and guided by manager Neil Marsh, the Sauerland fighter can expect big things in 2018.
Parker citied the greats Floyd Mayweather Jnr and Pernell Whitaker as inspirations when he was a growing into the sport of boxing. Watching Zach fight, shades of both men can be seen creeping into his fighting style. Tall, rangy, and carrying proven power, Zach Parker waits patiently for his next chance to showcase his skill set. A win on Saturday leaves him with three wins from three in his WBSS undercard adventures and puts him in a prime position to launch his assault on domestic rivals.
That being said, Zach could well be challenging for two world titles this weekend…
Follow Zach’s journey on Twitter: @ZachParkerBoxer
Written by Tom Humber