Boxing: Parker in work-mode as Bergman aims to douse fire

By Patrick McKendry in Apia

The heat, humidity, white-sand beach and inviting swimming pool at Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker's luxurious base could all serve to send him into holiday mode, but the make-shift ring set up in the hotel's reception is a reminder of what he is here for.

Parker, who will fight American southpaw Jason Bergman here on Saturday, will have a well-deserved rest after this bout, his sixth in 10 months, but knows - with all that is happening in the heavyweight division - that a mandatory shot at a world title might be less than 12 months away.

Arriving in Samoa's capital on Saturday, Parker, who normally holidays here at this time of year, was quickly in training mode.

This morning, after a run along the beach, Parker was in the ring - three ropes stretched around four pillars to create what uncannilly looks like the genuine article - hitting pads with trainer Kevin Barry and sweating profusely.

The staff behind the reception desk only metres away watched, but the strenuous activities at a place more used to relaxation clearly aren't a novelty now.

It would be incongruous at most places, but the presence of the ring seems right for one of Samoa's favourite sons.

"This is my holiday time," Parker said. "I always come here for holidays and sometimes you think 'oh man, I just want to relax and chill', but you always have the fight in your mind."

He added: "I'm grateful to be in Samoa because the body is agreeing with me being here. The injuries I've had, the sore back that I've had, I'm not really feeling it any more. It just shows this beautiful weather is helping with it and I'm determined to finish this week off with an exclamation mark.

"This is the end of my year. There's going to be fireworks, there's going to be a war between me and Jason and we're ready for it."

With the virtually untested southpaw Charles Martin claiming the vacant IBF title at the weekend, Tyson Fury the new WBO and WBA champion, and Deontay Wilder defending his WBC belt recently, the division is as open as it has been in a decade.

Bergman could be an awkward opponent but the undefeated Parker is determined to take advantage of recent events.

On the recent victories by Wilder and Martin, Parker said: "When I saw them I pictured myself being in the ring and I could definitely take them on. I could definitely be in there and mix it with them. If I trained for 11 weeks in a hard camp I could take any of those heavyweights.

"I feel it is just around the corner. We've set a plan for this year and there is a possibility we could fight for a world championship at the end of the year or if not the beginning of next year. Everything that's happening in the heavyweight division is opening up the doors for us young fighters coming up. I believe I'm a top contender."

It is snowing in Bergman's home of Pittsburgh, but despite being the outsider to home-town hero Parker, who has many family members living here, there is no sense of him being out in the cold.

"It's quite relaxing," Bergman said after a series of interviews with the local media. "I have nobody here to impress. I just have everybody here to shock and that's what's going to happen.

"They took me as a journeyman, but I'm not at all. My record is very deceiving and people in the boxing world are going to see it. My first 18 fights - it takes a good team to develop a good fighter, and I had nobody, I did it all on my own. I was taken advantage of and running around the country fighting guys out of my league at the time with no experience."

- NZ Herald

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