- Publish Date
- Friday, 19 February 2021, 9:34AM
By: Patrick McKendry
The Joseph Parker v Junior Fa all-Kiwi heavyweight showdown is only a week away but the three judges still have yet to be selected as both camps refuse to back down on what promoter David Higgins has described as a "shit-fight" over "trivialities".
What Higgins has described as one of his most challenging promotions, which has already been delayed once due to a medical condition for Fa which required surgery in December, and remains under a cloud due to possible Covid-19 restrictions which could require another postponement, has hit another speed bump due to a protest over the officials by the Fa camp.
Both camps have to agree to the judges and Fa's camp has pushed back over the naming of two Christchurch judges on the list.
Their reasoning is that as Parker's trainer Kevin Barry is a well-known and respected member of the Christchurch boxing community, putting two Christchurch judges ringside next Saturday would not be a good look.
"The list is full of Christchurch judges and we said 'we're not having that'," Fa's manager Mark Keddell told the Herald.
He added that Fa's fight in Christchurch on the undercard of the Parker v Alexander Flores gave his camp an insight into how tight the boxing fraternity is there, something Barry himself mentioned at the pre-fight press conference.
"He basically told us that day that Christchurch boxing was a very tight-knit community… so why would we want two judges from Christchurch when such a well-known and respected fighter, trainer and manager in his own right is on the other side?" Keddell said.
"We're not naïve enough to think that's okay for our guy. I'm not questioning anyone's integrity, all we're saying it's a tight-knit community and we're not interested in having Christchurch judges. It's a line in the concrete for us."
Brendan Bourke, the Asia Pacific manager of DiBella Entertainment who promote Fa, told the Herald: "We're not taking anything away from the judges there – they are fine people – we just feel that with two Auckland boxers fighting and so many good judges in Auckland that we should be able to find some judges from there that we can agree on."
Higgins attempted to dampen the flames by saying negotiations over the judges were continuing.
"It's correct to say the Fa camp have come back and indicated they have a problem with two judges from Christchurch and the reason given was the Barry family's history in that part of the world," he said. "We're taking that on board. On our side, there are one or two names we weren't entirely happy with either. I think it's going to require a compromise."
But Higgins added: "It's interesting dealing with people who haven't been at this level before. It's almost more difficult dealing with this team than it was with [promoters] Eddie Hearn and Bob Arum. It's nit-picking stuff.
"I'm less worried about it than Mark. At the end of the day, ideally Joseph wins by knockout so it doesn't really matter what the judges say. Most good judges wouldn't compromise their career and integrity. Again, it's a shame we have to have a shit-fight and a skirmish on such trivialities on the home straight – and their feedback was bloody late too. It was required two weeks ago and here we are a week out and we have not agreed who the judges are. It has certainly been a challenging promotion."
Referee John Conway, a 52-year-old Aucklander, has been confirmed as the third man in the ring.
Another bone of contention is the treatment of the gloves before the fight, with the Fa camp saying they were surprised to see Parker's trainer Barry allowed to take them home after the weigh-in. They are normally kept by the supervisor.
"It was a bit puzzling to be honest," Bourke said. "The gloves were presented to the supervisor at the weigh-in and then he [Barry] said he was keeping them and taking them home, which is really not the done thing in boxing."
Higgins replied by saying: "Obviously we reject all that. The process around gloves has been painstakingly written into the contract.
"It's rigorous. No matter what happens in the fight, no one can use the gloves as an excuse."
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission