Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Parker copping punches in preparation for Samoa

Joseph Parker has suffered a few blows in the build-up to his fight in Samoa. Photo / Dean Purcell
Joseph Parker has suffered a few blows in the build-up to his fight in Samoa. Photo / Dean Purcell

In preparing for his fight against southpaw Jason Bergman in Samoa a week on Saturday, Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker has unintentionally worn more punches than in any other training camp.

Parker's battle with American Bergman in Apia, which will be screened live on pay per view television, has been tagged "Rumble in Paradise", but the South Aucklander's recent four-week camp has been anything but.

An elbow injury and lower back problem which have been aggravated at Parker's Las Vegas base are other issues for him and trainer Kevin Barry to deal with as the 24-year-old looks to continue his rise up the ranks, but it's Parker's defensive lapses as he adjusts to a new style which might be the most concerning.

"He's been hit with more punches during this training camp than ever before," Barry said. "He wants to go to the right but against a southpaw you have to go to left.

"It's made me a little concerned because I like to be prepared."

Bergman (25-11-2) has won 17 of his last 19 fights but is unlikely to seriously threaten Parker, who has a perfect 17-0 professional record.

The fight is the focus but Parker is also looking forward to a much-needed break before preparing for bouts in April and July which he and his camp hope get him near a mandatory challenge in a division in a state of flux following the defeat of Wladimir Klitschko.

"This is our sixth fight in 10 months," Barry said. "It's a lot to ask and we've had very little down time. Joe's body is telling him at the moment 'I need a break'.

"In the three years we've had he's been lucky with injuries. He's had a shoulder problem and we had an eye scare for a start, but in this particular camp we had the niggles right throughout."

Parker, ranked in the top 10 in the WBC, IBF and WBO, isn't the only one feeling the pinch. Barry said he would undergo surgery two days after the fight on two hernias which have been aggravated by the constant pad work he does with the powerful Parker and heavyweight stablemate Izu Ugonoh.

"Some days it is really rough in training and other days fine," Barry said. "I have taken a pounding to the body in the last 12 months by Joe and Izu. Body punching is a big part of my skillset."

While a break is within grasp for Parker, the Samoa trip holds a special appeal.

"I'm feeling sore and my body needs a break but this is a fight I'm looking forward to," he said. "My parents were born in Samoa and I travel there every year to visit the family and friends so it's nice to get back there and thank everyone for their support."

The 31-year-old Bergman, who has sparred recently with WBC champion Deontay Wilder, is seen as the perfect opponent to get Parker used to southpaws. This weekend in New York Wilder will defend his title against southpaw Artur Szpilka and on the same card the IBF world title, which was recently stripped from Klitschko's conqueror Tyson Fury, will be contested between Vyacheslav Glazkov and southpaw Charles Martin.

- NZ Herald

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