Joseph Parker's handlers accuse Wladimir Klitschko of 'taking soft option' as chaos hits heavyweight title scene
Joseph Parker's handlers have lashed out at former world champion Wladimir Klitschko as the heavyweight boxing scene is plunged into confusion.
Klitschko management's talks with promoter Eddie Hearn about a super fight in Manchester with IBF title holder Anthony Joshua have stalled.
There are strong suggestions Klitschko will instead take on rugged Australian Lucas Browne in Germany, possibly with a WBA belt up for grabs.
There is major manoeuvring going on to take advantage of the WBA and WBO belts vacated by troubled champion Tyson Fury.
Parker, as No 1 with the IBF and WBO, finds himself right in the middle of the mix but the road to the title keeps getting speed bumps added to it.
Duco Events bosses Dean Lonergan and David Higgins are continuing talks with American promoter Bob Arum about his fighter Andy Ruiz coming to New Zealand to contest a WBO belt.
They first have to have that cleared by the WBO at their annual conference in Puerto Rico which Lonergan will attend. He will have to fight off suggestions of a four-man box off for the belt.
Klitschko is No 2 in the WBO and there is the chance that Parker could fight the giant Ukrainian, though Lonergan doesn't see that happening. He has had no contact with Klitschko's management for several weeks.
There's also a chance that Hearn could call Parker's mandatory challenge and order him to fight Joshua on December 10 in Manchester.
Lonergan prefers to go down the Ruiz route for now, and couldn't resist a crack at Klitschko who has further clouded a murky scene.
"I can see the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko fight falling over for a variety of reasons and Klitschko is going to take the soft option of fighting in Hamburg against Lucas Browne," Lonergan said.
"That just goes to show that Klitschko is past it and shot. He had the opportunity to make a massive comeback and massive statement against one of the young Lions of the division in Anthony Joshua.
"If he passes on that fight, he also has the opportunity to take on the other young lion of the division in Joseph Parker. But he's not ... he's taking the softest option possible and I think it's a disgrace that they couldn't finish that [Joshua] deal for the sake of boxing and his own credibility."
Lonergan suggested "club fighter" Browne was capable of knocking out Klitschko if the former champ fronted with a similar effort to when he lost to Fury in a huge upset last November.
Lonergan said he and Higgins had a "very good" meeting with Arum on Tuesday. Higgins would continue those discussions while Lonergan attended the WBO conference.
But everything pointed to Arum agreeing to a December 10 date in Auckland – dependent on the WBO title being up for grabs.
"I can't speak for Bob Arum, but his opinion is if Andy Ruiz is going to fight Joseph Parker it should be for the WBO world title. And if Klitschko doesn't have the balls to stand up and fight Joe, why shouldn't we fight for the world title?" Lonergan said.
Lonergan admitted there was also a possible option of fighting Joshua as the mandatory, a reflection of Parker's strong position in this mess.
"We could potentially be up for discussion on that. But the opportunity to make history with a world title fight in New Zealand is just to great an opportunity to pass up.
"If we take a long-term view, we'd much rather have a negotiation and a fight with Anthony Joshua when we are unifying two titles as opposed to us going to fight for one as a mandatory. It's going to be a better deal for Joseph Parker and Duco, and a much bigger fight.
"But the biggest hurdle to all of this happening is for the WBO to allow us to fight Andy Ruiz.
"If that happens, December 10 is looking likely to be a massive day in boxing. Potentially it is going to have Parker v Ruiz in New Zealand, Anthony Joshua v either David Price or Kubrat Pulev in Manchester, and Klitschko v Browne in Hamburg."
Hearn said the next 48 hours would be crucial to determining whether a last-minute deal could be stitched together with Klitschko but admitted it was time to look at other options.
Hearn suggested the uncertainty over the WBA being up for grabs in Manchester was the reason behind Klitschko's reluctance to fight Joshua.