Joseph Parker will be back in the ring this month after fighting back from a spider bite which cost him a bout with Dereck Chisora.
The 28-year-old was set to meet the Brit in October but was forced to pull out after the nasty insect incident. Now, on February 29, Parker will take on Shawndell Winters in the States as he looks to bounce back and reclaim the WBO title he held between 2016 and 2018.
The New Zealander is embracing his new ‘Spider-Man’ tag, posing in a shirt featuring the eight-legged critter during a gym session last month and is relishing a return. “I am delighted to be back in action on this huge bill in Texas,” he told Sky Sports. “It was frustrating to be ruled out of the Chisora fight in October, especially in such an unusual way, but I have been on fire in the gym in Las Vegas and we're ready to get back to business.”
Speaking at the time of the incident, Parker’s manager David Higgins insisted he is still keen to take on Chisora and defender the fighter’s absence. “I saw the British media sort of mocked the spider bite thing, but the honest feeling for the doctors, we think it actually was a spider bite,” he told Sky Sports.
"I'm no expert, but it sort of destroys your immune system, your health. You are fatigued. He was ordered by medical professionals to stand down for three weeks. Make no mistake, we wanted to fight Chisora, we still do. We'll just see what happens."
Now fully focused on Shawndell, Parker has set his sights on becoming a two-time world champion this year.
"The division is moving at a great pace and this is a perfect opportunity to show the world that I am one of the elite players in the division. Shawndell is on a great run and I know he'll bring it on February 29 – but I am ready to show that I will become a two-time world champion in 2020 and that starts with a dominant and destructive display in Frisco."
Losing his belt to Anthony Joshua nearly two years ago having previously been unbeaten, he lost his next fight to Dillian Whyte and is now determined to get back to winning ways among the sport’s biggest names.
Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is keen to see him back and added: "It's important for Joseph to make a statement and remind the champions and fellow challengers that he's coming for them – but Shawndell is on a roll and will be desperate to take a huge scalp in the shape of the Kiwi on a massive night in Texas."
One name Parker has an eye on is the undefeated Olympic gold medal-winning Ukrainian, Oleksandr Usyk. “I’d love the opportunity to fight Usyk,” he said. “He’s a top fighter with good skills, good movement and I’d love to test my skills against him, if it’s for the world title.
“There’s a lot of things that need to happen… but if the opportunity arose, I’d take it with both hands.” It’s a big year for Parker, with bigger names on the horizon.