On a well-known boxing forum immediately after the Zach Parker v Luke Blackledge British super-middleweight title eliminator was announced in July 2017, a poster – acknowledging that Lancashire’s Blackledge was a hard-working, good all round honest fighter – asked his online confidants, “What do we know about Parker?”
A few days and over a dozen replies later – despite fighters such as Rocky Fielding, Erik Skoglund, Phil Fury and Mark Heffron being mentioned, along with Luke’s current and former trainers – we were none the wiser. Not one reply referenced Parker, nor did any attempt to predict the outcome of the contest – which was quickly, and – as is the online way – almost nonchalantly, forgotten.
Even when predictions were made in the wider boxing press, almost all opted for the experience and general all round ability of Blackledge to prevail over the admittedly talented but young and inexperienced Parker.
A few weeks later, a vicious and perfectly timed long left hook fizzed through both Blackledge’s defence and any pre-fight debate as to the merits and future title aspirations of the gifted 23 year-old from Derbyshire.
Parker’s emphatic first round KO win over the former Commonwealth champion ensured his name was suddenly being mentioned in the same conversations as a host of other top-rated British, and even world, 12 stone men. A pro since July 2015, it was his 13th straight win. He had arrived.
Fresh from training at altitude in Tenerife ahead of his next contest – on the undercard of the Groves v Eubank World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) super-middleweight semi-final in Manchester in February – Parker reveals the confidence he and his camp had ahead of the Blackledge fight, how his close family ties saw him choose boxing as a career and, now that he has signed a promotional deal for the Sauerland Brothers and been named as reserve for the massive WBSS clash, his aspirations for the future.
“We were all confident ahead of the Blackledge fight,” Parker says, a little out of breath after some mid-afternoon sprints in the Canary Island sunshine. “Luke was a good fighter, we knew that, but we were confident, very confident. People were writing me off, saying it was a bit too soon for me, but I knew I was ready. I knew it wasn’t going to go the distance.
“I’d had great sparring abroad, against top fighters [including Skoglund and WBA champ Tyrone Zeuge] and we worked on switching to southpaw to confuse him and it worked. I took my time to look for the opening and, when I saw it, I let it go. It was a great shot that we’d worked on a lot in training and it landed just as we hoped. Everything went to plan really.”
If that one punch in that one contest suddenly thrust Parker into the limelight, those who follow the sport closely had known about the hard-hitting, box-fighter for some time.
“I’d gone under the radar a little bit before the fight,” he explains, “and I think that worked in my favour. Few people knew what to expect but I’d been a decent amateur, won a load of national titles, and my Dad, brothers and a cousin had all boxed so I’ve been around the sport all my life really. I know its ups and downs and how hard you need to work in training to be successful. I had a few robberies as an amateur and that’s what made me turn over. With my Dad at first, my coaches Errol [Johnson] and Paul [Mann] and my family around me I haven’t looked back.”
Indeed, Zach’s father, Darren, had 11 pro fights (1987-91) and, as well as Cornelius Carr, met a then 22 year-old Chris Eubank in 1988 (L TKO 1) before setting up and becoming a coach with Swadlincote ABA – the amateur club his sons, Zach, Lee and Duane (later a decent pro middleweight himself) would ultimately join – together with a cousin, Connor – and spend all their amateur careers with.
Beyond the familial bond which Parker stresses has done much to help him develop as not only a boxer but also as a man, such an association with Eubank snr also sets up a potentially startling symmetry should Zach face the younger Eubank at a future date.
Whilst some may see such a scenario as far-fetched – Junior is currently ranked No. 1 in the World at 12 stone – Parker however, doesn’t.
“I’m ready for these fights now,” he says with hard to suppress enthusiasm,” definitely. I maybe should have had more fights [Parker is currently 14-0] but no-one wants to fight me. We’ve tried for bigger fights but everyone keeps saying the same thing – ‘he’s too dangerous, he hits too hard, we don’t want to face him.’ They’re wary of a young lad like me coming up.
”There’s only the supposed big names left and if I was offered a fight with any of them right now then I’d take it, of course I would. That’s what I’m in the sport for. I’m definitely at that level. I won the eliminator for the British title and Rocky [Fielding] holds that but I think he wants bigger fights to be honest so maybe he will vacate? I don’t know. But I know I’m ready for anyone now.
“Blackledge was a tough fight in terms of the experience he had and fighting on a big show but I won that and thought I handled the situation, the TV, media and the pressure well. My last fight, the eight rounder in Germany [against Belgian Matingu Kindele] was also tough. He was a bit heavier than me but I won on points easily and went eight rounds for the first time. I’m learning more with every fight, every spar and every training session and don’t think I’m too far away [from the top super-middleweights].
“If a chance does come then I’ll take it. It’s good for boxing to see top fights and I want to be involved in them. It’s what the fans want to see. Hopefully with the Sauerlands and Neil [Marsh – his manager] they’ll see more of me soon. I can’t thank Neil and the Sauerlands enough. They believe in me and I won’t let them down. Training here has been great – I feel a lot stronger and a lot fitter, just better in every way and people will see that in Manchester. I’ve got what it takes to go all the way.”
Fans can next see Parker against Spain’s WBC Mediterranean super-middleweight champion, Adasat Rodriguez – who has also fought at light-heavy – at Manchester arena on 17 February. He was also recently revealed as reserve for the top of the bill showdown between George Groves and Chris Eubank jnr. should anything prevent either from boxing.
Confirming how highly his charge is now regarded, Marsh said: “Zach is a pleasure to manage and work with and is more than ready to step in if anything happens to the main card. He’s ready for the big names now and ideally wants the Rocky Fielding fight.
“John Ryder rejected an offer to fight him and Stefan Hartel [14-0 German super-middle who lost to Anthony Ogogo at the 2012 Olympics] turned him down too. Zach even wanted to be reserve for Smith v Braehmer as well. He really will fight anyone and is coming for the top super-middles. Ideally, we would love to make the Fielding fight as chief support to the WBSS final.”