This strange life, such is the itinerant and transient schedule of the professional fighter which constitutes Joseph Parker’s life nowadays: He lives and trains in Las Vegas with Coach Kevin Barry, has fought in three different countries over the course of 2014 and now we find him on a Saturday afternoon in a deserted ballroom at Auckland’s Pullman hotel, just he and Barry hitting the mitts and making small talk along way.
Kevin and Joseph have been generous enough to invite us into camp on a couple of occasions now and each time I’ve been struck by how light and humorous the tone is. As an example Kevin mentions Kiwi golfing phenom Lydia Ko who recently collected a $1.5 million dollar payday on the women’s LPGA and Joseph’s eyes light up as he quips to Kevin that ‘maybe it isn’t too late for us to turn to golf!’
There are certainly a few different methodologies you can employ when entering into the lead-up to a fight. Reading Mike Tyson’s autobiography one is struck by the intense state that Cus D’Amato liked to keep his fighter in 24/7. No doubt it helped Tyson’s meteoric rise, but I wonder how viable that approach is long term and one senses from Tyson’s words that it simply wasn’t sustainable.
Certainly the more relaxed and friendlier vibe has worked well for Parker and Barry so far as they have enjoyed both a busy and fruitful year. It is also a year that has seen Parker land on Wladimir Klitschko’s radar, having been asked to spar with him twice in 2014, offers which didn’t quite eventuate due to scheduling conflicts. I ask Kevin if they are able to land some sparring sessions with the champ next year what the potential pluses and minuses may be.
‘I see a lot of upside for Joe sparring with the very best heavyweight in the world. Wlad is the man that all other heavyweights measure themselves against. Joe learned a lot when we fought on Wlad’s card in Germany this year. Not only watching how Wlad used his superior height and reach but how he conducted himself in a totally professional manner. I would love for Joe to have the opportunity to match his skills against Wlad’s. It would give us an indication of where we are at after 2 years and what we need to do to prepare to move up the heavyweight rankings.’
I also ask Kevin as to what his take is on the Costa Junior fight. ‘Considering Brian Minto and Sherman Williams were 5-10, 5-11, Beato brings a totally different size and power to this challenge. He is a very big unit with a very big punch. It will be essential that Joseph shows good discipline and maturity in following a correct fight plan against such a dangerous opponent. We can’t afford to lose focus or composure, when one punch can change the outcome.’
Sitting down with Joseph we talk a little about the past year and of course his upcoming bout with Costa Junior:
ESB: Although you stated you wanted to knock Sherman Williams out in your last fight you ended up going the distance. Do you think it was perhaps better for your overall development to end up going the full 10 rounds?
JP: I feel that going the 10 rounds with Sherman I learnt a lot more from that than the other fights we’ve had. I think I needed those rounds if I wanted to grow and become more experienced. Plus I felt my fitness was great.
ESB: Looking at the next fight against Costa Junior, being announced at short notice how much of an opportunity have you had to look at him?
JP: We’ve seen a bit of footage on him. His last fight Kevin and I saw and some fights before that. It shows on his record that he has some good power on his punches.
(Parker has also had the opportunity to spar some rounds with Costa Junior in Las Vegas last year, where he can attest to that power first hand.)
ESB: He’s a slightly bigger, taller fighter than the last couple of guys you’ve faced.
JP: It’s good to face someone a similar height to myself. Moving forward it’s important to start fighting guys of this type of height.
ESB: He is a big puncher so are you looking to get him out early or are you wanting to get some rounds in like you did against Sherman Williams?
JP: We have a game plan that we’ve put in place. I feel like we’ve got too much speed for him. If the knockout presents itself we’re definitely going to take it. But we’ve got to be smart about it and we’re trying to finish off the year with a good win.
ESB: This is your 5th fight in just over 7 months, are you enjoying that type of schedule?
JP: I’ve enjoyed it. You don’t get too much down time, but at this stage of my career it’s important to keep busy. You’re learning every time you jump in the ring. All we can see from the fights so far is that we’re gradually getting better at throwing body shots and gaining more confidence in our punch selection and becoming more complete.
ESB: If everything goes according to plan is it going to be a similar schedule next year?
JP: Yeah it’s going to be a crucial year and slowly taking steps to keep on improving and moving up the rankings.
ESB: And lastly, the division is starting to heat now with a few fighters beginning to make some noise. Is there anyone you specifically like you to tune in and watch?
JP: Yeah, Anthony Joshua is making a lot of noise on that side of the world. It’s good to see another prospect coming up. We’re sort of taking the same path and I know he’s watched a few of my fights, and he’s keeping an eye on us and we’re keeping an eye on him. We’ve talked to each other when we were in the amateurs.
I mention to Kevin how already there is chat and debate on various fight forums as to the merits of each prospect and their chances should they ever face each other and Kevin agrees, ‘that banter will grow far more next year as they both keep winning.’
At this point it is time for Joseph and Kevin to head downstairs to the deserted ballroom to hit the pads and run through their fight plan. Already in New Zealand as Joseph’s profile continues to grow, more demands and requests for time are being placed on both the fighter and trainer. Success acts as a particular type of magnet and even as I watch them finish this session, upstairs in the lobby some fans patiently wait wanting to have chat and capture a photo with the rising star.
Joseph seems to take it all in his stride and his immediate goal remains a simple one: Win on Saturday against Costa Junior. If he achieves that he will head into Christmas enjoying a well deserved break as 2015 beckons, a year where the noise will only grow louder and the interest further amplified.
Joseph Parker takes on Irineu Beato Costa Junior on Saturday December 6th at Claudelands Arena, Hamilton.
You can follow Joseph on his Twitter account: https://twitter.com/joeboxerparker