Boxing: Frazier grave visit helps inspire Parker

By Patrick McKendry of APNZ in Philadelphia

A visit to the grave of former world champion Joe Frazier today has helped inspire Joseph Parker to reach the heights of the man who became known as Smokin' Joe. Photo / File.
A visit to the grave of former world champion Joe Frazier today has helped inspire Joseph Parker to reach the heights of the man who became known as Smokin' Joe. Photo / File.

A visit to the grave of former world champion Joe Frazier today has helped inspire Joseph Parker to reach the heights of the man who became known as Smokin' Joe.

New Zealanders Parker and Robert Berridge, both of whom fight on a Main Event card at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem in Pennsylvania on Sunday NZT, paid their respects to Frazier's legacy at the Ivy Hill Cemetery on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

Frazier, who died of cancer on November 7, 2011 at the age of 67, lost only four times in his professional career - twice to Muhammad Ali and twice to George Foreman. A near life-size portrait of him as a boxer adorns his grave, but a plaque placed at the leafy site by his family paints him as a family man with a love of cars, church and music.

"To come and visit the grave site of a champion... he was the first one to beat Muhammad Ali," said Parker, who has seen many of Frazier's fights on YouTube.

"He had the brawler style, he liked to come in because he wasn't that tall. He came in and bobbed and weaved. They are the hardest to fight because of the pressure they bring. It's definitely inspiring."

The desire to be world champion burns strongly in 22-year-old Parker and the belief has been helped significantly by his performance in his last fight a month ago - a demolition of experienced American Brian Minto.

Minto is an experienced fighter who went into the bout in South Auckland with self-belief of his own after a victory in a bloody brawl over Shane Cameron, one of Parker's role models, and a bag of tricks picked up during his many years as a professional.

"For me that was a big step up," said Parker. "He was a tough dude and knew a lot of tricks. In the training camp we did everything we could to prepare and after the victory that was a boost for me because everything we did was working.

"To beat someone who beat Shane Cameron and someone who has been around the world and fought different champions, the feeling was cool.

"It gave me confidence in myself and what I can do in the ring and confidence that if we put in the hard work, listen to the coach and follow the plan then everything will fall in place. Probably the highlight of the fight was executing the plan. In previous fights I wasn't able to or didn't follow instructions."

In an odd twist, one of the gravestones facing that of Frazier's is inscribed by the name "Joseph Parker", who died in 1890.

- APNZ

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