Joseph Parker is off to the UK, but his next opponent remains in question
Joseph Parker's next opponent appears as uncertain as his unconvincing performance on Saturday night. All we know for sure is the WBO world heavyweight champion will defend his title for the first time in the UK within the next four months.
Parker's dour points win over sparring partner Razvan Cojanu, in his last fight in New Zealand for some time, allowed challenges and critics a free swing. From the always outspoken Dillian Whyte to Tony Bellew and Hughie Fury, all three Brits wasted no time mouthing off about their respective claims to dethrone the Kiwi.
Jibes about Parker being the easiest target of the three heavyweight champions won't bother his camp for now. All it does is build his profile and expectations as he maps his first UK venture.
"Promotionally, it's good in a way," Parker's promoter David Higgins said. "Those Brits will be talking it up. We'll go back into camp and you never know what can happen."
Whyte is a sideshow - a risky proposition with little upside. Bellew shapes as the most lucrative prospect and, therefore, most immediately desirable fight.
A natural cruiserweight, Bellew is not physically imposing. His lure comes after he moved up to shock David Haye, but the victory was tainted as the former champion battled on one leg after rupturing his Achilles.
Parker and trainer Kevin Barry both made it clear they would welcome a fight with Bellew, potentially at Liverpool's Goodison Park.
"Love it - sounds good to me," Parker said.
"I'll have a rest first and talk with the team but it's a fight we would love to have in the UK."
Barry said: "I think it's a great opponent for Joe. I've always thought it was a good opponent; his style, size and the way he moves. It's a fight that if he engages could be a very quick night."
Fury is the big, awkward stumbling block. Despite pulling out two weeks before his scheduled fight with Parker with a questionable back injury, Fury has maintained his mandatory status and, according to the WBO, the right to face Parker next.
Fury's standoff style doesn't make for a compelling spectacle but his name, largely trading off his cousin Tyson, creates global appeal.
One theory is Fury, who hasn't fought for a year and might relish a tune-up fight, could be paid off in the short term, allowing a deal to be struck for him to challenge the winner of Parker-Bellew with the WBO title still at stake.
The WBO, however, says the situation is black and white. The only way Parker can cash in against Bellew next is if Fury takes another fight, or if an unlikely unification bout can be made with fellow champions Anthony Joshua or Deontay Wilder.
On the evidence of Parker's effort against Conjanu, both those are too soon. Parker's camp see Bellew and Fury as much easier ways to make their mark in the booming UK market.
Fury's promoter Frank Warren claimed his camp now have 30 days to negotiate with Parker's team, and if terms cannot be agreed another purse bid would be ordered.
On @hughiefury v Parker WBO Mandatory Challenge. We have 30 days negotiations then purse bids if we cannot agree terms with Parker's camp.— Frank Warren (@frankwarren_tv) May 6, 2017
But WBO Asia Pacific vice president Leon Panoncillo said the old purse bid stipulations, which sees Parker's camp retain rights to stage the fight where and when they want, remained.
Under that agreement Parker will earn $2.4 million; Fury $1.7m. That's just a taste of the staggering money on offer for Parker in the UK while he retains the WBO belt.
"The purse bid is still in place," Panoncillo confirmed.
"The reason why the fight didn't take place was the medical claim that Fury submitted that he was hurt. Parker had to have a voluntary defence because he wasn't available.
"The championship committee allowed the fight with Razvan to happen and they now have 120 days to defend the title against Fury, who is the mandatory."
The question Parker most needs to answer next is whether he has the necessary power to floor top contenders after Andy Ruiz Jnr, Carlos Takam and Conjanu's negative approach all saw them last the distance.
Ironically, that unknown makes him a desirable target, only increasing his appeal.
But there is little doubt Parker lacked spark against Cojanu. A similar performance next could see all he has worked so hard for squandered.
"He's got to a certain level and he's finding his feet as world champion," Higgins said.
"This particular fight the opponent changed two weeks out so I wouldn't quite call him a points victory fighter. He's a KO fighter based on his record.
"People tend to focus on the now. It's like cricket; some days you get a century other days you get a duck. Boxing is probably similar - you have good and bad days.
"To get a decisive win is actually a good result we're very happy with."