Carlos Takam has promised Joseph Parker a "war" when they meet in Manukau next week and, going by the 35-year-old's physical shape, he looks well-qualified to provide one.
The French-Cameroon fighter, who will take on Kiwi Parker at the Vodafone Events Centre on Saturday week in an IBF heavyweight eliminator, was photographed at a Sky Television promotional shoot on the day of his arrival from Paris and appears as fit as he has ever been in his 36-fight professional career.
"It's very, very important to win the fight," Takam said. "I come here to New Zealand to win, not to lose. We're going to make a war."
A victory for either fighter will open the door to an IBF world title fight against either Anthony Joshua or Dominic Breazeale. For Takam, it will be an opportunity to make some serious money after a long career during which he has become known as a difficult and durable opponent. For 24-year-old Parker, it will be the continuation of a rapid rise in the paid ranks, a step towards a bout which could set him up for life.
"This is a very, very big challenge," Parker said. "This guy's not a joke. He's come prepared, he's been in the ring with some big names, so I know it's going to be a big challenge but I know it's a challenge I'm ready for."
Parker's promoter Dean Lonergan, who came up with the idea of putting the 520 general admission tickets for the event on auction site Trade Me, said his first reaction to Takam's impressive physique was: "Shit, we're in for a real fight. The photographs don't lie ... what they say are this guy is durable and this guy is tough. What they say are this guy has come to fight. He's 35 years of age and he's cut to hell. I came away thinking 'we're in for a big fight come May 21'."
Lonergan's colleague Martin Snedden, the chief executive at Duco Events and a former boss of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, described the fight as the most significant sporting event of the year in New Zealand.
"When you get inside that arena on Saturday, May 21, the atmosphere will be something extremely special ... it's the moment of truth for a budding New Zealand superstar and if he succeeds people will look back to that night as the biggest step he took forward to a magnificent international career as a heavyweight champion," he said.
Snedden said the experiment of putting the general admission tickets on Trade Me for a reserve price of $1 was a risk but one worth taking given the demand and the fact most corporate tables were sold in two weeks.
Lonergan said if Parker beat Takam his fighter would be lined up for several "meaningful" fights before his mandatory title challenge which is slated for between November 20 and January 20.
"If we took no fights, as some fighters do, it means he wouldn't have fought for eight months which is 100 per cent the wrong thing to do, and if we took easy fights where he's not tested, well how is that going to prepare him for a world title fight against potentially Anthony Joshua, who everyone is saying big things about."