Former heavyweight champ Parker in school visit row

Joseph Parker lost his World Boxing Organisation heavyweight title to Anthony Joshua. (Reuters pic)

WELLINGTON: Former heavyweight boxing champion Joseph Parker’s latest fight has him embroiled in a row involving sexism and racism with a New Zealand school.

A high school in the North Island city of Whanganui had marketed an upcoming visit by Parker as a “closed motivational session” for boys of Maori or Pacific Island descent and their fathers.

But the 26-year-old New Zealand boxer said Tuesday that if the session was not made all-inclusive, he would not be there.

The school claimed it was the Parker camp that requested a restricted audience with board member Piri Cribb, saying it was an opportunity to work with a section of students who were less engaged.

“It’s not a separatist movement and it’s not an elite strategy,” she said.

“It is simply an opportunity to capitalise on the cultural similarities that this man has with our young men.”

But Parker insisted he wanted all pupils to have the chance to hear him and was disappointed in how the event had been planned.

“I’m even more disappointed the school would claim that they had done this at my request – when that is clearly untrue,” he said.

“If we go down to see the kids we’d like to see everyone,” Parker added in Auckland at his first media conference since losing to Dillian Whyte in London 10 days ago.

Parker’s promoter David Higgins said the boxer was unlikely to attend if changes were not made.

“I think it’s unfair to exclude say females or other races as Joseph might only visit that region once in five or 10 years,” Higgins said.

“For that reason I think it should probably be inclusive, and we probably wouldn’t support that particular visit if it’s not inclusive and if changes aren’t made.”

Parker won the World Boxing Organisation heavyweight crown in December 2016 and defended it twice before losing on points to England’s Anthony Joshua in March this year.

He subsequently lost to Whyte on points but has said he will continue to fight for another five years.