DERBY’S Zach Parker (22-1, 16 KOs) believed that he held his destiny in his hands when he fought John Ryder last November with the winner guaranteed a shot at world super-middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez. Unfortunately, the 29-year-old’s right hand was severely injured in the fourth round, and he had to withdraw from the fight to ensure that his fist didn’t turn into mush.
The former British champion was desperate to win for Derby, secure a big fight with the Mexican superstar and secure his family’s future — his partner had given birth to a daughter, their first child, a fortnight prior to the fight — yet boxing is a cruel sport that can trample on your dreams.
CT scans revealed that the metacarpal bone was fractured and that carrying on could have led to permanent damage. Parker went back to his personal specialist, Mike Hayton, one of the best in the business when it comes to hand injuries. The hand was pinned and screwed back together. Parker was told that it would be at least four months before he could hit something.
He started tentatively using it again and, on Saturday night (September 23), he will be back in action against Khalid Graidia at the Wembley Arena. Such was the severity of the break, though, that Parker could hear the clicks it made through the gloves when he tried to use it against Ryder.
He told Boxing News that it is a sound he will never forget. “It looked like a cross on the x-rays,” he said, and like any fighter who opts to live to fight another day he was crucified online for his decision. “People go for people online then they do the ‘Be kind’ hashtag thing. Why not be nice and try to understand what people are going through?
“It was a disappointment. Frank [Warren] was getting me fights all over the place after a period of inactivity. I’d love to have two fights this year. The ‘0’ has gone, the pressure has gone, but I feel good and will fight anyone they line up in front of me.”
It was a tough period for Parker. Now, though, he is back to being able to do what he loves, and he is doing it for the people he loves. “It is frustrating when you are injured because you are sat around doing nothing,” he said. “I’ve been back in training, doing some 12-round spars and have been told I look exceptional. My hand is perfect now, so, yeah, we’ll see on fight night.
“Mike said to tap with it, not go full ball, but then you get more confident, then your hand feels stronger — in fact, it feels stronger than ever before,” he added. “I’ve got a little daughter. She was born before the Ryder fight so we’ve got a good little family and we want to have a few more. It gives you something to fight for.”
Parker used the timeout to settle into life as a family man. He knew that a comeback would be on the cards so balanced being a newly minted father with getting back into fighting condition. When we caught up with him, he was out shopping for clothes for his daughter and partner as the family will fly out for a holiday after Saturday night’s fight. Although he is and has always been devoted to boxing, what he hopes will become a big family comes first and foremost.
“I’m just an ordinary lad doing the simple things,” he said. “My mum and dad have got 15 grandchildren, so they are used to it. My mum helps a lot. When I’m training and my partner is working, she chips in.
“My partner is great, she does the nights when I’m training so it is a co-promotion with us both — if you know what I mean. At first, the baby is in your room so you could wake up any minute. She is in her own room now and might just wake up once — she’s really good. People just overcomplicate it when it comes to kids.
“The baby took our minds off it (the defeat). It is a full-time job being a parent. I’m just looking to the future and what Frank and [manager] Neil [Marsh] can do for me. I wanted a big fight straight away, but I’ve been out so need to get in there and work towards a big fight once the rust is off me.”
Parker needs to stay active and earning because, let’s face it, having 15 nieces and nephews means a lot of £20 notes stuffed into a lot of birthday cards. Plus, Parker and his partner have already started thinking about getting married, but they want to wait until their daughter can be a part of the ceremony.
“Yeah, I’ve got 15 nephews and nieces, so it is expensive — by Christmas, you’re buying them all Selection Boxes and that,” he said with a laugh. “We’re looking at getting married when she is about three so she can walk my partner down the aisle.
“She is close to walking now. It won’t be long until she is running around everywhere. My main thing is that I want to get married, have more children and would like to have a lad, but if we end up with three girls, I’d be happy with that.”
Parker has been told that big fights are on the horizon. One fight was discussed at light-heavyweight, where he might campaign in the future, and there are other fights for him at both weights.
However, the one he really wanted at light-heavyweight looks to be dead in the water as Marsh has confirmed that an offer was made to Anthony Yarde only to be rejected as the Londoner is considering other options.
“I want the Yarde fight and would take it,” said Parker. “I want a big fight after this one. I told Neil I’d take a Yarde fight with both hands. Once you lose that ‘0’, you feel that you can put it on the line more.
“I’d take Yarde, Callum Smith or anyone between super-middle and light-heavy. I’ll just fight at the weight where the offers are made. I’m a massive super-middleweight so can handle the move up in weight. We’ll wait and see.”