NOBODY quite knows how or why heavyweights Joseph Parker and Jack Massey have been paired this weekend in Manchester, yet it has happened and one only hopes the match ignites at least one of two careers very much in need of a jumpstart.

As unusual as it is, the fight between Parker and Massey is indicative of two heavyweights in the wilderness right now. For Parker, last seen being flattened by Joe Joyce in the 11th round of a mini classic in September, it represents the chance to get back on the horse and relaunch yet another climb up the world rankings, whereas for Massey, someone whose career as a heavyweight is in its infancy, this fight is the ladder up he may have been requiring for some time.

Certainly, if you take into account experience and seasoning, the outcome of Parker vs. Massey should be easy enough to predict. It is Parker, after all, who has competed at much higher weights and levels, both historically and in recent times, and it is Parker, too, who comes into the fight boasting wins against men like Andy Ruiz Jnr, Derek Chisora (twice), Hughie Fury and Carlos Takam.

However, while Massey is unable to match those wins with anything on his record, he has lost just once in 21 pro fights and has won his last three all by stoppage. If nothing else, then, the 29-year-old, known as “One Smack”, will be confident. He will be familiar with the feeling of winning and, though a newcomer to the heavyweight division, will have every belief that his smaller stature and superior speed can make Joseph Parker feel comparatively cumbersome in the ring.

Typically, of course, it is Parker who is the smaller man during fights at heavyweight. It’s an advantage he often uses as well, regularly outboxing opponents with his quicker hands and feet and accumulating rounds on the scorecards.

Here, though, he will presumably have no such luxury. Massey, having never been heavier than 205 pounds throughout his nine-year pro career, and having never before officially competed at heavyweight, will clearly be the smaller and marginally quicker man on fight night. Whether he can put this to good use is another matter, however.

To date, Massey, 20-1 (11), has so far only fought one opponent of any real note, against whom he came up short via 12-round decision in 2019. That man was Richard Riakporhe and the fight, although close, proved a step too far for Massey, then campaigning as a cruiserweight.

Now, against Parker, 30-3 (21), he will be competing at a similar level – if not higher. Moreover, he will be meeting someone in Parker who, even if battle-hardened and maybe diminished by some of his past skirmishes against top fighters, remains a man of 31 years of age, with enough freshness and ambition to fend off the threat of an opponent who, until he proves otherwise, seems somewhat out of his depth here. To prove that, Parker should try to force a stoppage, but the more likely outcome, given the New Zealander’s propensity to cruise, is a decision win.

Elsewhere on the card, while Jack Massey mixes it with a big name at heavyweight, former opponent Richard Riakporhe settles for fighting a lesser but no less respected name down at cruiserweight.

His first real step up as a pro arrives in the form of Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki, 32-3 (20), who has undoubtedly seen better days but is a former WBO cruiserweight belt-holder and a crafty southpaw to boot. He won’t, at the age of 36, offer Riakporhe the kind of threat the Londoner perhaps needs to really bring out the best in himself, but he will certainly pose him questions and new looks which could, if Riakporhe takes him lightly, make things interesting for a few rounds.

Riakporhe, of course, is unbeaten at 15-0 (11) and has emerged in recent times as one of the hardest hitters in the country. Direct and spiteful, the 33-year-old possesses a vicious right hand and a deadly body shot and has used this power to good effect, halting the likes of Fabio Turchi (TKO 2), Deion Jumah (KO 8) and Olanrewaju Durodola (TKO 5) in the last year or so. He is tall and rangy at 6’5 and seems to have become an increasingly difficult fighter to avoid, so measured and calm is his approach, and so decisive is the moment he explodes into action.

Glowacki, for his part, will have seen most styles to date as a pro, yet may not have come across someone like Riakporhe before. He struggled quite noticeably with the rangy style of Lawrence Okolie back in 2021, when stopped inside six rounds, and has since then only managed to defeat the 16-3 Francisco Rivas Ruiz via fourth-round stoppage last April. All signs, therefore, point to a man very much on the decline, which should, if form counts for anything, result in Riakporhe claiming the biggest scalp of his career somewhere around the halfway mark.

Perhaps the most competitive fight on the Manchester undercard is one at welterweight between Ekow Essuman and Chris Kongo, with both British and Commonwealth titles at stake.

Essuman, unbeaten at 18-0 (7), won those two belts in 2021 when stopping Chris Jenkins inside eight rounds. Since then, he has successfully defended them against Danny Ball (W KO 6), Darren Tetley (UD 12), and Samuel Anwi, whom he defeated over 12 rounds last September. At 33, the Nottingham man is enjoying the best form of his career and relishing his role as champion.

Kongo, meanwhile, is three years Essuman’s junior at 30 and has lost just once in 15 pro fights (with seven wins by stoppage). That loss came against Michael McKinson in 2021, when outpointed over 10 rounds, though following it Kongo responded well, winning two fights, including a 10-round decision win over Sebastian Formella last year.

Stylistically, this fight should be far more to Kongo’s liking than the one against McKinson, but it’s still hard to see beyond Essuman continuing his good run of form, most likely on points.