When Joe Joyce knocked out Daniel Dubois on Nov. 28 in London, the WBO heavyweight rankings shifted, with Joyce vaulting up from No. 11 to replace Dubois at No. 2, just behind No. 1 man Oleksandr Usyk, who is the official mandatory challenger.
But the WBO heavyweight title is of greater than normal interest at the moment, with at least the possibility that Anthony Joshua may vacate the belt, and fighters are trying to jockey for key position, including former WBO titlist Joseph Parker, who currently sits at No. 3.
“Joseph Parker is a former WBO world champion. He has got some wins on his resume, including Carlos Takam, Andy Ruiz and Alexander Dimitrenko. He took Anthony Joshua the distance. If Joe beats Junior Fa — and remember Fa is the current WBO No. 6 — so if Joe beats Fa, I think on balance of the evidence, he would have to go to No. 2. But obviously we would lobby the good people of the WBO and that would be at the discretion of their ratings committee. It’s an interesting question, but we would hope to go back to No. 2.”
The 28-year-old Parker (27-2, 21 KO) is, as Higgins mentioned, slated to fight domestic rival Junior Fa (19-0, 10 KO) on Feb. 27 in Auckland, New Zealand. He has to win there to even truly get into this discussion, obviously.
Now, let’s address this as something that isn’t just total horseshit — it is, but let’s make pretend this isn’t total horseshit, for funsies. Yeah, Parker probably deserves the No. 2 ranking ahead of Joyce, at least if you can accept that either of them should be ranked the No. 2 contender by anyone. The thing is, Dubois never deserved the No. 2 ranking in the first place, and Usyk only even has the No. 1 ranking because the WBO immediately named him mandatory challenger based on having held their cruiserweight title. He got that designation before he even fought at heavyweight.
Ugh, it’s hard to even do this for pretend, isn’t it? Furthermore, Fa being the No. 6-ranked contender is also absurd. This is nothing against Dubois, a prospect everyone liked (or still likes), or Fa, who isn’t a bum or anything. It’s just that neither of them have actually beaten anyone of real significance. Fa’s best wins are over a 241-year-old Dominick Guinn and Devin Vargas.
But all of this hoping and wishing and jockeying is based largely on the idea that Anthony Joshua may vacate the WBO belt to fight Tyson Fury instead of his order to fight Oleksandr Usyk. Personally, I still think that’s really unlikely. Joshua actually cares about his belts, and really he should, he’s spent years giving part of his paydays away to three sanctioning bodies to carry around belts that are probably actually worth about $250 each. And with the COVID-19 pandemic far from over, the ability to fill a stadium isn’t there right now, and won’t be for at least a year or so, probably. Joshua’s not going to want to sit around a year, and Fury won’t either. The Joshua-Usyk fight actually makes plenty of sense for the time being.
Still, even if it’s unlikely, it’s smart of fighters to try to get into the position. If Joshua does wind up vacating this belt, the WBO will swoop in and try to fill the vacancy quickly. We know one side will be Oleksandr Usyk. The other side will be either Joyce or Parker as stands right now.