Brad Lewis: Shawndell Winters fight looms as a career-defining moment for Joseph Parker

OPINION: Losing is simply not an option for Joseph Parker this weekend, as he tries to get his spluttering career back in full gear.

Since dropping the WBO heavyweight title in March 2018, the Kiwi slugger has fought just three times - a loss to Dillian Whyte, and two stoppage wins over unranked opponents Alex Leapai and Alexander Flores.

Injuries and bad luck (spider bite) have led to an unfortunate period of inactivity, smack dab in the middle of the most exciting period in heavyweight boxing for two decades.

World titles have changed hands three times since June and several exciting prospects have emerged from the shadows, jockeying for relevance in boxing's glamour division. 

Parker's declining stock runs the serious risk of crumbling with anything other than a dominant win over unheralded American Shawndell Winters in Texas on Sunday (NZ time)

An impressive performance would catapult Parker right back into the mix, with a potential WBO mandatory clash with impressive Ukranian Okeksandr Usyk the likely result.

Speaking on arrival at the Dallas Cowboys training facility in Frisco, where he will go to battle on Sunday, the 28-year-old said he was inspired by Tyson Fury's stunning win over Deontay Wilder.

"Now that we are here, I am starting to get really excited," Parker said. "It's always a different feeling when you arrive at the venue of your fight for the first time.

"I went to the Tyson Fury/Deontay Wilder fight the other night and after seeing what Tyson did in the ring, it's given me a boost to get into the ring and do what I can do."

Parker must shed his 'nice guy' image
Parker must shed his 'nice guy' image Photo credit: Getty

No more 'Mr Nice Guy'

But shouldn't the threat of exile to the heavyweight wilderness be enough for Parker to want to obliterate a 39-year-old journeyman who hasn't faced a ranked opponent in 15 career fights?

That has always been the knock on Parker - he's too nice. He doesn't have that edge, he's not a bully.

 

Parker has the skillset to climb right back to the summit of the heavyweight mountain. He has punching speed in spades, great footwork, as good a jab as anyone in the division, and ripping body shots that wore out Dillian Whyte and almost propelled Parker to a comeback victory in July 2018.

Tale of the Tape, Parker v Winters
Tale of the Tape, Parker v Winters. Photo credit: Newshub.

Strangely, Sunday looms as a watershed fight for Parker against the most uncredentialed opponent he has seen in five years.

He must put on a show and send a message to the boxing world that the likeable New Zealander isn't the sport's 'Mr Nice Guy' anymore.

Brad Lewis is producer and co-host of Fight Club podcast.

Join us on Sunday for live updates of Joseph Parker v Shawndell Winters.

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