Kiwi boxer Joseph Parker’s future now lies in the court of public opinion after the former heavyweight champion was yesterday revealed to be the sports star police allege is linked to a major international drug importation and supply conspiracy.
Parker hasn’t been charged in relation to the case – police said there wasn’t enough evidence – and fought to keep his name secret at hearings in the High Court and Court of Appeal for two years.
Yesterday the Supreme Court ended Parker’s bid for secrecy after ordering his name suppression to expire.
“This coming out is the worst-kept secret in boxing,” said Mark Keddell, Junior Fa’s manager, who dealt with Parker during the build-up to their February match in Auckland.
The most important thing now for Parker, who he described as “a really nice guy to deal with”, was how he dealt with the fallout.
“He’s now in the court of public opinion rather than the legal courts … it’s a funny old game, boxing, because sometimes a bit of controversy like this can help with notoriety.”
But reputation expert Chris Galloway, of Massey University, said the news was damaging.
Devoted boxing fans may not walk away, but others could “turn their support elsewhere”, which could affect future marketing and sponsorship.
“[The news] doesn’t take away from his competence in the ring, but it does make him less marketable.”
The 29-year-old, who held the WBO heavyweight title from 2016 to 2018, wanted to keep his identity hidden after prosecutors named him during the High Court trial of Tevita Fangupo, Tevita Kulu and Toni Finau in 2019.
The three men were jailed for importing large amounts of methamphetamine, disguised in Nike shoes and clothing declared as gifts.
Despite not being charged, the Crown alleged Parker played a role in the importation of methamphetamine by transporting and changing currency.
Parker has strenuously denied the allegations, including under oath in the form of an affidavit.
“I have never been involved in the importation of class A drugs,” Parker affidavit reads.
“I have never changed or transported money for the defendants. I have never been involved in the purchase, supply or consumption of methamphetamine.
“Nor was I charged by the police in relation to the specific messages alleged to relate to me, after what appeared to be a thorough investigation.”
There was support yesterday for the father of three, including from the Middlemore Foundation, where Parker’s been an ambassador for three years.
“We stand with Joseph,” CEO Sandra Geange said, describing the boxer as an “incredible advocate” for the foundation.
“We have seen the positive impact he has made in South Auckland through our work in the community … we look forward to continuing our association with him for years to come.”
Boxer David “the Brown Buttabean” Letele wrote on Facebook he was standing by “my friend”.
“Joseph Parker is not a criminal. He hasn’t been convicted of any crimes. He wasn’t even charged.”
Mad Butcher chief executive Michael Morton said he had “no comment” when asked if his company would continue its sponsorship of Parker.
National leader Judith Collins, who is Parker’s aunt, also didn’t want to comment, a spokesman said.
“I can confirm that the first time Judith Collins heard about these allegations was late [Thursday] night,” the spokesman said.
In a statement provided by his lawyer Michael Heron QC, Parker said he and his family had been placed in a “terrible position”.
“Things have been said about me that are quite untrue; some of them have already been proven untrue, and I was given no chance to respond at the time they were made.
“It’s caused a lot of stress and worry for myself and my family – and it just seems totally wrong.
“Having said that, I need to accept the decision and get on with my life. I have other fights to fight.”
Questions have been raised about the police investigation, with a High Court justice declaring “doubt attaches” over how thorough officers’ inquiries into Parker were.
The police had tried to interview Parker, but he exercised his right to silence. A search warrant was also obtained for his house but never executed.
Detective Inspector Scott Beard yesterday defended the investigation involving the Auckland City Organised Crime Unit, and said Parker’s “status and profile” didn’t influence the outcome.
“While police did find evidence that this sportsperson knew all of the men who were accused and subsequently convicted, police applied the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines and found that there was insufficient evidence to commence a prosecution.”
Heron said a senior officer had reiterated if there was reliable, credible evidence they would have charged Parker.
“The evidence was admissible against the men on trial and their lawyers had a chance to offer a rebuttal. Mr Parker did not have that. The jury made no decisions about Mr Parker.”
Parker was now getting on with his new regime, with a new trainer, after splitting – by mutual consent – with long-time trainer Kevin Barry last week.
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