Late rematch clause creates spat between Joseph Parker and Razvan Cojanu camps
Joseph Parker's first WBO world title defence came very close to being more of a gamble than it needs to be.
In their haste to lock in a replacement for Parker, following Hughie Fury's withdrawal two weeks out from the title fight, Duco sent a contract to Romanian challenger Razvan Cojanu. The only problem was it did not contain a rematch clause.
Parker is widely expected to bowl through Cojanu, his sparring partner ranked 14 by the WBO, in Manukau on Saturday. But anything is possible in the heavyweight division and, had Parker suffered a shock loss, he nearly waived the chance to have a crack at reclaiming his crown.
Behind the scenes over the past week Duco and Cojanu's manager, John Arthur, have been squabbling over contracts; specifically the initial absence of rematch clause.
* Cojanu coming in 'under cover'
* Parker's $10K uniform held up
* Hearn: Joshua v Fury fight 'miles away'
* Barry comes out swinging over Parker's power
* Reason: Joshua turns back boxing clock
Arthur, a veteran of 47 years in the fight game, said he had never encountered these sort of problems. He received three different contracts, and claimed it was disrespectful.
"Is it telling me they are scared, is Razvan that dangerous? I don't like games, I don't like threats. They tell us either sign it or get on the plane and go home," Arthur said. "How are we going to do that? We came all the way from Los Angeles, California. I've had two sleepless nights about this damn contract, about getting things straight."
The final contract was only finalised four days out - virtually unheard of for a heavyweight title contest and creating another layer of drama to what's already been a messy build-up for both camps.
Duco boss David Higgins acknowledged mistakes had been made by his company but made no apology for pushing to safeguard his greatest asset.
"He's correct; the contract was issued. He signed, but I didn't because I was in the middle of re-organising the event," Higgins said.
"When I did look at the contract - and it's lucky I did because I would have been stupid to sign it because there were no options in it. Team Parker worked for three-and-a-half years and took tremendous risks to get to this position and it would be silly to not de-risk the contract with standard things like rematch clauses.
"It was probably a bit of an error by our team who hadn't run it past me or our lawyer. And that's symptomatic of how it all went so quick. I apologised after but it was also ridiculous to sign and if Razvan got lucky we would have no rights.
"There was a little bit of argy-bargy over the last two or three days. I was doing my job in terms of protecting Joseph Parker and our team so I make no apologies for taking a firm stance.
"But it was touch and go. He should be happy. He's getting a world title shot and a six-figure payday. Some heavyweights never get that."
The upshot is not only will Parker get a rematch with Cojanu should he lose, but Duco now also hold the rights to promote the Romanian's next three fights.
Parker said his final trainings had been going well but trainer Kevin Barry reiterated the dangers the late change in opponent had brought.
Barry said Parker couldn't afford to be distracted by all the noise coming out of the UK and US as the heavyweight scene heats up with the Kiwi right in the mix.
"We're fighting a guy who's got absolutely nothing to lose - we have a lot to lose," Barry said.
"Joseph is the WBO heavyweight champion of the world. You've all heard about what we've got coming up, we've got offers in the United States, we've got offers in the UK. We've got nothing if we don't care of Razvan Cojanu on Saturday."