PARKER vs. COJANU ON MAY 6 — Razvan Cojanu, who challenges WBO world heavyweight boxing champion Joseph Parker on May 6, has 18 pro fights under his belt, the same number as Anthony Joshua. The comparison ends there.
Parker’s promoter, Duco Events, was left scrambling when Hughie Fury backed out with the fight barely two weeks away, citing a lower back injury. Their choices were to cancel the event or find a replacement. Parker vs. Fury had already been pushed back several weeks, so keeping Parker active was considered preferable to surrendering the date.
Potential fill-ins – those willing to travel to New Zealand on such short notice for a fight of this magnitude– were in short supply. Deontay Wilder volunteered his services, but Wilder, who is in London this week, was just blowing smoke. Sure he wants to fight Joseph Parker, but not for short money on May 6. Christian Hammer, Kubrat Pulev, and Dillian Whyte, all ranked in the top 7 by the WBO, had commitments. Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller (WBO #3) had nothing on his plate, but Miller was unacceptable because he posed too big of a threat.
Meanwhile, as Duco pondered the possibilities, racing the clock, there was Razvan Cojanu waving his arms (“hey fellows, how about me?”). To keep the date, they had little choice but to accommodate him. He drew the assignment by default.
A 30-year-old Romanian who is based in Los Angeles, Cojanu stands six-foot-seven and weighs somewhere north of 260 pounds, attributes that stand out on the curriculum vitae of a man seeking work as a sparring partner. Cojanu has worked with Charles Martin, Alexander Povetkin and the aforementioned Whyte. He served in Joseph Parker’s camp when Parker was preparing for six-foot-seven Alexander Dimitrenko and again when Parker was preparing for the six-foot-six Hughie Fury, he of the suspicious back injury.
Hughie Fury, it says here, is nothing special. Like his more famous cousin, he has been involved in several snooze-fests. But Fury was marketable. The switch from him to Razvan Cojanu necessitated a change of venue, from a 12,000-seat arena in Auckland to one that seats about 3,000.
Cojanu is doing his part to hype the promotion. “I’ve only ever gone at 50, 60, or 70 percent,” he says, referencing his sparring sessions with Parker. Now that he can go full bore, he intimates, Parker is in for a big surprise. But Cojanu’s record, 16-2 with nine knockouts, informs us that his chances are slimmer than slim.
In his pro debut in 2011, Cojanu opposed a grossly overweight Mexican who was 5-9-5 going in. He lost a 4-round decision. He eventually avenged that defeat but the only time that he was asked to move up in class, against Donovan Dennis in April of 2015, he was pounded out in the second round. His 18 opponents were collectively 114-109-27 at the time that he fought them and that includes the ancient Argentine trial horse Manuel Alberto Puceta who was a misleading 37-9.
Allowing a man with limited pro experience to fight for what was once the most prestigious diadem in sports is nothing new. Jess Willard had only 24 pro fights on his ledger when he upset Jack Johnson in 1915. Ingemar Johansson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis, and Tyson Fury, all former lineal heavyweight champions, had fewer than 25 pro fights prior to winning the title. And who can forget Leon Spinks who brought a 6-0-1 record into his first fight with Muhammad Ali? Or, for that matter, Pete Rademacher, who had no pro experience whatsoever before challenging Floyd Patterson. Rademacher was in over his head, but he set a record that can never be beaten, only tied.
In the olden days when there were fewer weight divisions and each weight division had only one widely recognized champion, it was a lot harder for a boxer to secure a legitimate title fight without a long apprenticeship.
Twenty men attempted to wrest the heavyweight title from the shoulders of Joe Louis (five were accorded two chances) before Ezzard Charles finally turned the trick. Louis’s challengers, on average, had 67 pro fights on their ledgers when they challenged him. His least experienced challenger, Lou Nova, had 32 pro fights under his belt. The most experienced, John Henry Lewis, had 115. John Henry was one of four fighters — the others were Tommy Farr, Jack Roper, and Tony Galento – with more than 100 documented fights in the hopper when they caught up with the Brown Bomber in a bout where his title was at stake.
We don’t buy the argument that today’s fighters are inferior to the old-timers because they are less experienced. Those who make this argument fail to see that the international amateur scene is more robust nowadays and that many of our top pros entered the paid ranks with a wealth of international amateur experience, obviating the need for a lengthy indoctrination in 4-round pro fights. But if you tell us that heavyweight championship belts are effectively made of tin when men like Razvan Cojanu are allowed to compete for them, then we certainly wouldn’t argue.
Hope springs eternal in the heart of every would-be Rocky. Cojanu can find encouragement in the Ali-Spinks shocker. If he needs encouragement from men with his body type we would suggest Kevin McBride who wrote the final chapter of Mike Tyson’s career in 2005. Adjectives used to describe the Clones Colossus included such words as ponderous and cumbersome. But Spinks and McBride were fighting men who were over the hill whereas Joseph Parker, albeit still something of a mystery fighter, is only 25 years old.
Because of the time difference, the outcome of this match will be decided by the time that most folks in North America wake from their slumber on Saturday morning, May 6. But if we define “outcome” broadly to mean who emerges victorious, there is no intrigue. This will be a stroll in the park for Joseph Parker.
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