Andrew Gourdie: The big decision facing Joseph Parker

Opinion 05/08/2018
Photo: Getty.

By Andrew Gourdie, RadioLIVE host.

OPINION: In the coming weeks, Joseph Parker needs to ask himself some big questions. The answers will not be easy. Personally and professionally, he has a lot to consider. On the face of it he has three options: risk, retreat or retire.

His career, and his life, is at a crossroads. At the tender age of 26, he has a lot of years ahead of him. But recent events are sure to have provided some sharp perspective on the rest of his life.

Earlier this year, his little brother John was forced to put his fledgling boxing career on hold after the discovery of a brain aneurysm during a routine MRI scan. Hopes of appearing on the undercard of Joesph's world title fight with Anthony Joshua were dashed. A blow for John, but news that's sure to have had an impact on Joseph as well. 

If that wasn't enough of a reality check, then he certainly got one against Dillian Whyte. Parker was in control from the start, but a headbutt in round two changed the course of the fight, and maybe his career. He never fully recovered, and in the ninth round he was sent to the canvas - legitimately - for the first time in his career, with a clean blow from Whyte's fist. He showed the heart of a champion to come back in the 12th, but it was too late to avoid back-to-back defeats.

Then it's home to meet his second daughter, whose birth he missed as he prepared to face Whyte. Perspective. That's a big sacrifice to make for anyone, but especially someone for whom family means so much. 

So how many more sacrifices is Joseph Parker prepared to make? How many more risks is he prepared to take?

The answer may lie in determining which moment at the 02 Arena made left a bigger impression on Joseph Parker: was it being floored in the ninth round, or getting up to knock his opponent to the canvas in the 12th? It boils down to human nature. Fight or flight. 

Parker has openly admitted he intends to fight until his early 30s. That's about another five years. 

If he continues his career, he can choose to retreat. Be conservative. He can choose to fight boxers he knows he can beat. Fight Lucas Browne. Fight him at home. Make decent money, not huge money. Bank what you've got. Accept that beating Andy Ruiz for the WBO Heavyweight title was your Everest.

Either that, or find the courage to climb the mountain again, knowing full well that the climb comes with the risk and reward that his promoter David Higgins so often speaks of when discussing Parker's options. The reward is still the same: a big pay day and perhaps another shot at the title. But the risk has changed: for the first time in his career, Parker now has a reason to interpret 'risk' as a threat not only to his career, but to his long-term health. 

Martin Snedden, the former Duco CEO, gave his view this week that Parker should retire. On the face of it, the suggestion seems like an overreaction: knocked down for the first time in his career, Parker has no reason to think that what happened in London should precipitate the end of his career. But coupled with other recent developments in his life, it's difficult to accurately understand his mental state after what happened during those 12 rounds in London.

Retirement is a scary option for a 26-year-old who's only ever known a life of professional boxing. But it's one of three very real possibilities for Joseph Parker to consider on the back of a truly life-changing week. 

Andrew Gourdie is a Newshub sports reporter/presenter and host of RadioLIVE's Sunday Sport from 2pm.