The boxer against the fighter

By Paul Lewis

With a weight advantage of more than 13kg and a wealth of boxing experience, most fight fans are expecting South Africa's Francois Botha to take a canny tactical approach against young New Zealand heavyweight hope Joseph Parker in their clash at the Trusts Arena tomorrow night.

Most, except Botha himself, who says he will come out swinging at the fight, labelled the Hydr8 Zero Explosion.

Today's weigh-in provided a clear picture of the gap between these two. The 21-year-old Parker stripped down at 102.9kg, down a little from his 104kg fighting weight in Las Vegas where he easily outpointed expat Kiwi Brice Ritani _ a Botha look-alike, fight-alike and weigh-alike. The 44-year Botha weighed in at 116.5kg but, in spite of his age and more thickness round the middle than the superbly fit Joseph, he still looks strong and durable.

Botha has fought the great Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Wladimir Klitschko, Mike Tyson and Michael Moorer - all world champions and all of whom beat the South African in a career spanning 61 professional fights in 23 years.

However, he is not a finished fighter, though he is clearly closer to the end of his career than the beginning. He has lost his last four fights _ though one was that highly questionable clash with Sonny Bill Williams which was suspiciously shortened and which generated accusations of corruption and failed drugs tests earlier this year.

Another of his last four was against Michael Grant - now 40, Grant is a big man, bigger than Parker at 2.01m, and was a heavily hyped fighter until Lewis crushed him in a famous bout in 2000.

Most expect Botha to box clever against Parker - moving in close, clinching and leaning on the younger, lighter man, trying to drain his resources and get close enough for a telling punch.

But Botha claims it will unfold differently. "I will just come into the ring and take to him right from the start,'' he said. "I know he will try to jab and move but I will come in hungry; I will be looking to eat some rib and leg bones, maybe.''

After someone made a joke about this fight not being suddenly shortened, as occurred, against Williams, Botha said: ``Let me tell you - Duco are honourable promoters and they have done a fine job but I will not be taking any chances this time. I am going to crack a few rib bones and a few jaw bones.''

Parker, meanwhile looks as fit as he could possibly be. He has boxed more than 90 rounds in sparring - the equivalent of nine 10-round fights - and trainer Kevin Barry says his two months training and sparring has been of better quality than most of Parker's five professional fights so far. His sparring partners have included a 23-year-old Mexican heavyweight on the rise, Andy Ruiz, beginning to make a name for himself with an 18-0 record. He's also sparred with a well-known Japanese kickboxer and with Ritani.

He's worked so hard he has dropped weight since the Ritani fight and his corner have been encouraging him to eat freely to build up a little more weight.

Parker's chief weapon will be his speed, his jab and his ability to use his reach and ringcraft against the slower Botha. It shapes as a classic boxer-against-a-fighter clash and an intriguing contest between one nearing the end of his career (but still with a little to prove after the Williams debacle) and one just starting out, full of talent and promse as yet unrealised.

"I have never seen a young man so driven and so focused,'' Barry said. "He has devoted himself to training, even on his off days he has trained twice a day and has given it 100 per cent _ then he has slept and got up and done it all over again the next day. He is taking Francois Botha very seriously and I think we will see the best of Joseph Parker tomorrow.''

- Herald on Sunday

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