Team Parker fuming as British referee appointed for WBO title fight in Manchester
Joseph Parker's handlers are "dismayed and appalled" at the decision to appoint a British referee for his WBO world heavyweight title defence against Hughie Fury.
Britain's Fury and Parker clash in Manchester on September 24.
The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) has appointed British referee Terry O'Connor - the same official in charge of Hughie Fury's last two bouts - to control the fight.
"We're frankly appalled by this. We have petitioned the BBBoC multiple times to see sense, but to no avail. Serious questions need to be asked of the BBBoC," Duco Events director David Higgins said on Thursday.
Fury's last fight against Cameroon's Frank Kassi in April last year, ended in a technical decision to Fury when O'Connor called off the fight after the Brit suffered a cut to the eye in the sixth round.
Duco say a written request from the WBO to the BBBoC to follow its guidelines with regard to the neutrality of officials for world championship bouts has also been rejected.
"This appointment of 'home town' officials contravenes the WBO's guidelines that officials should be neutral, and clearly leaves the contest open to speculation about bias and impropriety," Higgins said.
"WBO president Paco Valcárcel wrote to the BBBoC politely requesting that 'the same procedure applied by the British Boxing Board of Control in the Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko bout, should be used on this occasion'. Inexplicably the BBBoC has ignored that. This is disgraceful."
Higgins said the appointment of a referee who has controlled Fury's last two fights breached the fight contract. "It's entirely contrary to the spirit of the deal and the letter of the contract struck with Hennessy Sports for the title fight, the governing principal being that it would be a fair fight," he said.
Higgins feared the appointment would fall into the likely game plan of Fury.
"The entire world knows that Hughie Fury is going to run away from Joseph Parker, clinch, elbow, headbut and do whatever he can to steal a result. Having a referee with whom he is familiar clearly provides an unfair advantage.
"Mr O'Connor refereed Hughie Fury's last two fights, so it is patently inappropriate for him to have any influence over this world title fight.
"We might have expected this sort of thing had the bout been held in a banana republic, but to see this lack of neutrality and fair play in a nation like Great Britain is staggering."
Parker's safest option to defend his title under these circumstances is to remove the referee and judges from the equation by knocking out Fury, a method of victory is eager to attain in an effort to stamp his name on the buoyant British heavyweight scene.
Higgins said Duco Events had lobbied BBBoC successfully to have a New Zealander added to the judging panel to balance the presence of a British judge, however the BBBoC had refused repeated requests to appoint a neutral referee.
"We've formally raised these issues with BBBoC and its response has been quite frankly pathetic. They could not provide an adequate reason why they did not want a neutral referee.
"WBO guidelines state that for a world title fight officials should be 'not the same nationality or place of residence or origin of the champion or the challenger(s), or of their respective agents'.
"BBBoC has the final say over the appointment of officials for this fight and we want to know why they have ignored the WBO's quite sensible guidelines," Higgins said.
"Furthermore, Peter Fury looked me in the eye, shook my hand and said he wanted this to be a fair fight with neutral officials. I'm sure he hasn't changed his mind about that. So why would the BBBoC appoint non-neutral officials against the wishes of both camps?"
The latest controversy signal the dangers of taking Parker's title on the road and continues a trend in the troubled promotion that was first set down for May in Auckland, only to have Fury withdraw, citing a back injury.
There were problems with the fight purse bids and there are concerns the promotion will be run in a half full stadium as ticket sales continue to struggle.