Heavyweight world titleholder Joseph Parker's first defense against mandatory challenger Hughie Fury is off after Fury pulled out with an undisclosed injury, Duco Events, Parker's co-promoter, said Saturday night.
Fury's team announced Sunday that he suffered an injury to his lower back that has been a "serious issue for the last three weeks that has left him unable to train to his full capacity."
Team Fury said the fighter has been advised to rest for three to four weeks before returning to training.
The fight was scheduled to take place May 6 at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, Parker's home country.
"Duco Events was today notified by the World Boxing Organization that mandatory No. 1 challenger Hughie Fury has an injury and will be unable to challenge champion Joseph Parker for the heavyweight title on May 6th in Auckland," Duco Events spokesman Craig Stanaway said. "The World Boxing Organization has, therefore, advised Duco Events to investigate the possibility of Joseph Parker making a voluntary defense of his heavyweight title against an opponent ranked in the top 15 of the (WBO) world rankings. Duco Events is currently investigating all options."
If Duco Events can line up another opponent on short notice, the fight would still take place on May 6, Stanaway said.
"It's disappointing to say the least," Carl Moretti, vice president of Parker's co-promoter Top Rank, told ESPN. "Have to really wonder if Fury really wanted the opportunity in the first place."
Pulling out of heavyweight title fights has become common for the Fury family.
Hughie Fury is following in the footsteps of his first cousin Tyson Fury, the former unified heavyweight world champion, who last year twice pulled out of a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko before vacating the belts to deal with a slew of personal problems.
Duco Events organized Parker-Fury after it won a purse bid for the fight on Feb. 3 with the high offer of $3.011 million to beat the only other offer, which was $2.8 million by British promoter Frank Warren, who represents Fury. Parker, entitled to 60 percent of the winnings as the titleholder, would have received $1,806,600, with Fury getting the remaining 40 percent, a career-high $1,204,400.
The fight originally was planned for April 1 in Auckland, but it was pushed back to May 6 because Warren and Fury delayed signing the agreement in time for the initial date.
Parker (22-0, 18 KOs), 25, won a majority decision against Andy Ruiz Jr. on Dec. 10 in Auckland to claim one of the belts Tyson Fury vacated. He was mandated to face Hughie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs), 22, of England, despite Fury having never beaten a top opponent.