Boxing: Parker and Berridge follow Rocky's footsteps

By Patrick McKendry of APNZ in Philadelphia

The famous "Rocky Steps" in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art have provided inspiration for many boxers over the years, including one David Tua, and it was here today on a bright sunny morning that fellow New Zealanders Joseph Parker and Robbie Berridge found themselves ahead of their fights this weekend.

In the movie Rocky, released in 1976, Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa, a journeyman professional given a shot at glory against champion Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers. In one of the most well-known training montages in cinematic history, Stallone pounds the streets before running up the 72 steps, shadow boxing, and raising his arms to the heavens.

It is a scene recreated by many here and neither Parker nor Berridge needed any persuading to follow suit. At the top of the steps there are bronze footprints of the Converse shoes Stallone wore. There is a bronze statue of him in a shaded area near the foot of the steps. For many, the impressive museum, with its imposing stone columns, serves only as a backdrop to their retracing of Stallone's steps.

Both heavyweight Parker, who will fight American Keith Thompson, and light heavyweight Berridge, who will fight undefeated Russian Vasily Lepikhin, said they were fans of the Rocky movies, their faithful recreations at the top of the steps which are situated at the end of the sweeping Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with the grand City Hall in the distance, suggesting as much.

Parker, who had just flown in from Las Vegas following a training camp curtailed by a problem getting a United States visa, said he felt in good shape and was keen to improve on his dominant victory over Brian Minto.

Parker sparred six rounds against fellow Kiwi Brice Ritani-Coe in Las Vegas, with trainer Kevin Barry impressed with his work.

"I was very pleased with him yesterday. The six rounds he sparred after one day's rest after flying in from New Zealand was a terrific performance," Barry said.

"He's in very good shape. We've got 30 rounds of sparring in on short notice so I'm happy with where we're at."

Barry said it would be important for Parker start well in the fight, scheduled for only six rounds, in the nearby city of Bethlehem.

"The fact that he [Thompson] has done a lot of sparring with Deontay Wilder, who has probably the most menacing record in the heavyweight division at the moment, makes me think he's not going to be overawed by Joe. It's going to be very important right from the outset that Joe exerts dominance and pushes some doubts into Keith Thompson's mind. I don't want [Thompson] getting comfortable or any momentum at all in this fight.

Joe knows he has a big target on his back now with everyone he fights and it's very important he gets his punches in early. I'm very keen for him to get his right hand going more in this fight."

Barry's last visit to the steps was in 2003 in the days before David Tua drew with Hasim Rahman in Philadelphia.

"It definitely has history, it's a great view up here," Barry said from the top. "Straight off the plane in Vegas this morning to come and do this, all of these things are good for motivation. I see it as a positive thing for Joe."

Patrick McKendry travelled to the United States with assistance from Duco Events.

- APNZ

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