Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Boxing: Parker to be in hot demand

Joseph Parker faces off against Jason Bergman ahead of the pair's bout in Samoa. Photo / photosport.nz
Joseph Parker faces off against Jason Bergman ahead of the pair's bout in Samoa. Photo / photosport.nz

Arriving at their final press conference in Auckland today wearing lavalava and traditional pattern shirts before departing for Samoa, Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker and his team are vowing to embrace the chaotic welcome they are likely to receive.

However, there will be checks and balances once they arrive in Apia on Saturday seven days before the fight against American Jason Bergman, and they will be provided mainly by trainer Kevin Barry, who today jokingly said he would confiscate 24-year-old Parker's phone once they step off the plane.

Parker, 24, and Barry visited Samoa, the birthplace of Parker's parents Dempsey and Sala, in October following the victory over Kali Meehan, and the welcome for one of the island nation's favourite sons gave Barry an insight into what to expect next week.

"Joe comes from two very, very big families," he said. "When you talk about aunties and uncles, Joe has got dozens of them. A lot of them still live in Samoa and because they feel he belongs to them, everyone wants him to do things.

"We're well aware of it. Joe knows what his focus is and I play the role of the bad guy pretty well."

Parker said: "The main focus of this trip to Samoa is achieving a victory. We have to stay focused and it's good to have people around you to keep distractions to a minimum."

That's not to say that Parker's supporters won't have opportunities to see him. There are various outings planned, plus potentially a public training session at the gymnasium in which the fight, to be screened live on Sky, will be held.

Barry, who took Samoan heavyweight David Tua to an unsuccessful world title challenge against Lennox Lewis in 2000, also said he was likely to hold a coaching clinic for some youngsters next week.

Bergman, who arrived in Auckland from the United States today, is aware of the support Parker will receive in Apia, plus the fact his opponent will be the hot favourite to extend his perfect 17-0 professional career.

However, the powerfully-built southpaw vowed to present Parker with his sternest challenge yet.

"Joseph is a very good all-round fighter ... he's quick and smooth with a very good pedigree, a good amateur background but the only thing I doubt is that he hasn't fought no one," Bergman said. "I've been in the ring with three world champions.

"I don't have the ranking I believe I should have because I got off to a bad start in boxing. I've won 16 of my last 18 fights because I started taking it more seriously and got with the right coaches ... and ... I believe there are only two or three southpaws in the world capable of running with me."

Bergman, 31, who has just come off a training camp with WBC world champion Deontay Wilder, will be the first southpaw Parker has faced as a professional, and Barry has made no secret of the fact that his man has struggled to adapt to the new style in training.

Barry and Parker have also talked openly about the niggling injuries the South Aucklander has carried through his four-week training camp.

Barry, hoping to position his man for a mandatory title challenge by the end of the year, said of what is at stake: "If Jason Bergman can get that overhand left going, which we know we has - if he gets that victory he will move up the rankings to a position for a really big payday. This is the incentive for everyone who gets in the ring with Joe."

- NZ Herald

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