Former heavyweight world titleholder Joseph Parker will face former world title challenger Alex Leapai later this month because a deal to face Eric Molina, a former two-time title challenger, fell apart.
Parker, in the first fight of a three-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn that was announced earlier this month, will face Leapai on June 29 (DAZN). The card is headlined by middleweight world titlist Demetrius Andrade defending his belt against Maciej Sulecki in the first hometown fight of Andrade's career at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
The deal for Parker to face Molina had been agreed to, but Hearn said getting Molina promoter Don King to sign the contract dragged on until eventually Hearn said they decided to go in another direction.
Hearn told ESPN that it was also brought to his attention that Molina (27-5, 19 KOs), 37, of Raymondville, Texas, was still under suspension by United Kingdom Anti-Doping for a positive drug test related to his failed challenge of then-world titlist Anthony Joshua in 2016, even though Molina has boxed three times since in the United States.
With Molina out that paved the way for Leapai (32-7-4, 26 KOs), 39, a heavy-handed Samoan based in Australia, to get the fight with Parker (25-2, 19 KOs), 27, who is also Samoan but based in New Zealand.
"A stoppage would be nice. That's the goal going into every fight," Parker said. "I just have to change up the mindset to not only go in there and win, but go in and KO someone and make a statement. This is my first fight with Matchroom Boxing USA and DAZN, so I want to make that statement. There's no pressure but I do have to go out there and look good.
"I would love to avenge the losses that I have had against Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte. I'll fight them tomorrow."
Parker, who trains in Las Vegas, is aiming for his second win in a row since a lost 2018, in which he lost a decision in a title unification fight to Joshua and a decision to Whyte in a rousing battle later in the year.
In 2015, Leapai got a shot at then-unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko and lost by fifth-round knockout. He's aiming for the upset of Parker.
"I am the Samoan Andy Ruiz -- the guy everyone writes off," Leapai said, in reference to the fighter who upset Joshua by seventh-round knockout to take his three title belts in a shocker on June 1. "This will be the second massive upset this year because Parker is getting sparked."