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Parker-Ruiz in talks but unclear if vacant title would be at stake

With troubled Tyson Fury relinquishing his various heavyweight world title belts on Wednesday because he is in no position to defend them due to his issues with cocaine, alcohol and depression, it is unclear exactly how the WBO and WBA will go about filling the vacancies.

But even before Fury vacated, he was expected to be stripped anyway, so Duco Events promoter Dean Lonergan, who represents New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, and Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who promotes California-based Mexico native Andy Ruiz Jr., began talking about matching them for what they expected to be the vacant WBO title.

Parker is ranked No. 1 and Ruiz is No. 3 and since No. 2, former champion Wladimir Klitschko, whose rematch with Fury was canceled, is in talks with titleholder Anthony Joshua, Parker and Ruiz would be the highest-ranked available fighters to vie for the vacant belt if Klitschko went the Joshua route.

“We’re talking to the WBO about making it for the vacant title,” Arum told ESPN.com. “If they go along we told them Andy would be happy to fight Joe in New Zealand. I’ve never been to New Zealand so I’m looking forward to it.”

Arum said they had even begun discussing dates. Arum said a proposed Dec. 10 date would not work for Ruiz because he has recently joined the camp of trainer Abel Sanchez, who will be preparing unified middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin for an expected Dec. 10 defense. So Arum said they are talking about the fight being in January.

“Doing it in December is too close to the Golovkin fight so I would rather do it in January and have Abel be able to spend more time with Andy,” Arum said. “I think Andy being trained by Abel is terrific. I have great respect for Abel as a trainer and I think he can bring out the best in Andy. Andy hasn’t always been the most disciplined fighter but Abel I think can bring that out in him more than anyone else. It think Andy has the quickest hands in the heavyweight division and Abel will be able to exploit that talent in a fight.”

Arum said his experience dealing with Parker and his team has so far been a pleasure.

“They seem like nice people and this is the craziest thing in the world,” Arum said. “I was flying back from Hong Kong (earlier this week) and I’m in baggage claim in Las Vegas and who do I see? Joseph Parker. First time we’ve met. He seems like a tremendous young man, really nice, very polite. We took pictures together.”

Parker, who trains in Las Vegas, told ESPN.com he wants the title fight against Ruiz but will be ready for whatever comes his way. He is the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s IBF belt but that bout is not due until early next year and likely would be in England. He’d rather fight for a vacant title this year in New Zealand if Joshua is not available (in the event he’s busy against Klitschko).

“I think boxing is a sport where you have to be prepared at all times. I guess with that being said myself and my team are prepared for whatever comes our way,” Parker said. “We are happy to fight anyone. I see Ruiz as a fighter who has a lot of experience and will take this opportunity very serious. He's a dangerous fighter. With fighting good fighters it brings out the best in me.

“If we do fight for a world title and hold it in New Zealand it'll be a historic moment for myself, family and country. Exciting times ahead and I'm really looking forward to it. Also, fighting for a world title has always been a dream of mine. Dream come true to fight for it and win it.”

Said Lonergan: “The absolute worst outcome we could get, which is a real positive, is that in March we fight the winner of (the proposed) Joshua-Klitschko,” Lonergan said. “How good’s that going to be for a title? The best outcome we can get is get Andy Ruiz down here (in New Zealand). I’m in ongoing discussions with Bob Arum. I think we’re close.”

But they need the WBO to bless the fight. While the WBA has yet to outline any specifics for filling its vacancy, WBO president Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel told ESPN.com on Wednesday night that his preference is to set up a four-man box-off for the vacant title involving the four leading available contenders. The final decision on that will be made next week at the WBO’s annual convention in San Juan.

But the WBO’s top four heavyweights are No. 1 Parker (21-0, 18 KOs), No. 2 Klitschko (64-4, 54 KOs), No. 3 Ruiz (29-0, 19 KOs) and No. 4 David Haye (28-2, 26 KOs). But it remains to be seen who would sign on for a four-man tournament if that is how the WBO elects to fill the title, so it could have to go deeper into its rankings.