New Zealander Joseph Parker, already considered one of the hardest workers in the heavyweight division, has vowed to leave nothing to chance following the announcement of an elimination fight which could put him on the brink of a world title challenge.
Parker will go up against France-based Cameroon boxer Carlos Takam in May - probably in New Zealand - for a chance to fight the winner of the Anthony Joshua v Charles Martin IBF world title fight in London on April 9.
It will be 24-year-old Parker's biggest test of his undefeated 18-fight professional fight career, a bout which will be the most significant involving a New Zealand heavyweight since David Tua's failed title challenge against Lennox Lewis in Las Vegas in 2000.
If he is successful against the 35-year-old Takam, Parker will get a mandatory challenge against either Joshua or Martin by January 16 next year at the latest, and the Las Vegas-based south Aucklander has told trainer Kevin Barry that he is prepared to work like never before.
"Joe is a very hard worker in the gym and it's a testament to his hard work that we've had such great results," Barry said. "When I said to him 'you've always done everything I've asked of you', he said, 'I will work harder than I've ever worked before'. This is a life-changing opportunity for him."
The preparation will be key for Barry and Parker because both are expecting the fight to go 12 rounds. Parker has gone the distance only twice as a professional, most significantly a unanimous decision after 10 rounds over Sherman Williams in 2014.
"This is the step up that we've been preparing ourselves for for the last three years," Barry said.
"Joe's drive over the last three years has been easy to see. Everyone has seen him collect regional belts while working his way up the rankings. This is the next step up and it's a big step. It's got a lot of risk but there are also big rewards here."
Barry took Tua to his title shot against Lewis and saw his charge overwhelmed on the big stage. There was little sign of the punching power that Tua was renowned for, and he succumbed to a unanimous points defeat.
There are no indications the laidback Parker will suffer the same pitfall. He was extremely relaxed before his last fight, a stoppage over American Jason Bergman in Apia in January, and his team will endeavour to create the same atmosphere before his next one.
"We've found a formula which works and we will not be deviated from that," Barry said. "If we have this fight in New Zealand it makes boxing history in New Zealand. We've never had a fight there before where the stakes are so high - a world heavyweight title elimination fight. It would be easy to get wrapped up in the pressure and everything else but I will not let that happen with Joe."
The 1.94m tall Parker will have youth and height on his side against the 1.89m Takam. He will also have an advantage in terms of hand speed and Barry will want to see him scoring points at every opportunity.
"People just don't want to fight Carlos Takam because of how physically durable and strong that he is. Joe is going to have to be very smart. It will be very important that Joe follows the game plan. We need to fight him on the outside."
Parker said: "When I was a young boy I always dreamed about becoming world champion and this next fight is going to take me that much closer to me fulfilling my dream."
IBF ranking: 6