Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Boxing: NZ heavyweight hope Parker watching, and learning

Joseph Parker. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Joseph Parker. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Joe Parker is used to hearing nice things said about him.

Words like "talent", "skill" and "potential" have been attached to the 20-year-old New Zealand heavyweight hope since he began to show promise with the gloves as a young teenager.

So initially he appears comfortable in the 21st-floor office building with views of Auckland Harbour, owned by his sponsor and manager Sir Bob Jones, as he faces the media today.

Duco promotor Dean Lonergan, a self-confessed motormouth, is holding court as he explains the significance of the six-year deal Parker is about to sign. It is worth seven figures, says Lonergan, and the subsequent promotion will make Parker one of the most well-known faces in New Zealand. As a result of the deal, Parker will headline December's Fight for Life event in west Auckland.

More high-profile fights will follow, with a world title the aim.

All of which begs the question - is this shy, young south Auckland man ready to deal with the limelight?

"Yep, I'm ready," he says from behind a microphone and dressed in suit and tie. "I think. It will take time but I will get used to it."

Lonergan steps in. "It's a really good question, because we've talked about how to deal with getting more and more recognised on a regular basis," he says. "It's just little things like being on radio stations and what have you. The more we get him out there, the more polished he'll become.

"I think if you go back to the days of David Tua - because he's the one who blazed a trail in this country in terms of getting right to the top and getting very famous - David Tua as a 17-year-old or 20-year-old was a lot different to the David Tua of today who's very confident and outgoing.

"It just takes time. You look at Jonah Lomu, in the initial days he probably struggled with the media, I don't think Joseph [Parker] struggles at all, but as he gets older and gets to talk on a more regular basis it just flows off the tongue, as you can tell."

Later, Parker is more assured as he talks of the support the deal brings; in particular the financial rewards, but also the pressure it represents.

"It's a great opportunity for me. They're jumping in and helping out heaps. All I have to do is put in the hard work and get as fit as I can and be prepared for any fight that comes up.

"There is pressure because they're putting in a lot of money and if I don't perform it doesn't really work well, but I think I'm heading in the right direction."

Parker turned professional after being overlooked for the London Olympics and his training has gone to a new level as a result.

In training with Lee Parore, Parker, who stands 1.97m, has lost 12kg to weigh in at 106kg, and says he has gained strength and power. His opening professional fight was a second-round knockout of Dean Garmonsway in July's undercard of Shane Cameron's demolition of Monte Barrett.

Now he is building a career piece by piece. It's early days, as Lonergan and Sir Bob stress, and anything can happen, but there is no doubt about Parker's potential and willingness to learn.

"I've watched a lot of fighters. I've seen all of their records. Watching them motivates me and gives me the drive to push harder because if they can do it then well there's no reason why I can't do it. All it is is hard work."

- APNZ

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