If Zach Parker needed any reminding about what he will be fighting for on Saturday night, it came three weeks ago when his partner, Lydia, gave birth to their first child.
“It changes your perspective on life,” Parker said. “And it makes you grow up quick. It also gives you something more to fight for.”
Parker hasn’t been doing much fighting lately, having spent most of 2022 waiting around for Demetrius Andrade to decide what he wants to do. But on Saturday night, at the O2 Arena, London, Parker faces John Ryder for the vacant interim WBO super-middleweight title in a fight that could define where his career goes.
It has been more than a year since Parker, 28, was in action stopping Marcus Morrison. Already the WBO No 1 contender, he was matched with Andrade, the former WBO super-welterweight and middleweight champion, for the interim super-middleweight title.
After purse bids, the fight was set for Derby, Parker’s hometown, in May, only for Andrade to pull out. And when it went back out to purse bids again, the American drew once more.
“It's been a frustrating year,” Parker said. “I have no idea where Andrade is, he got called up twice and was nowhere to be seen.
“I’ve been in the gym all year, but I always train all year and I have done that since the amateurs.
“We’re here now, fully focused on John Ryder and I think it makes for a better fight. Andrade would be running a lot, whereas John Ryder meets you head on, so it makes for a great fight for the fans.”
For Parker, who is unbeaten in 22 fights, this is his breakthrough night, one that could pitch him into a fight with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in the not-too-distant future or knock him back down the pecking order.
He was largely unknown for his first 16 fights, before a British title fight with Daryll Williams in 2018, which went terribly wrong but proved the making of him.
He suffered a bad shoulder injury in the second round but fought on one-handed for the rest of the fight before being handed a split decision, which could at best be described as controversial.
In 2020, he stopped Rohan Murdock in a WBO eliminator. It was only after that he was signed up by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions.
“I couldn’t believe how good he was when I first saw him,” Warren said. “I can’t believe he went under the radar for so long.”
With a big height advantage, Parker might be excused for keeping it long, but he insists that he won’t by running from Ryder.
“He says he likes fighting bigger guys so he can get inside,” Parker said.
“When we stand together I am a little bit taller, but I do not box with my chin up in the air. I am planning to take the fight to him, but I can do that and still be hard to hit.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.