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

Boxing: Mum's word for Parker

Barry calls for calm from family and friends as his charge focuses on career-defining fight.
Joseph Parker (right) spars in the ring with trainer Kevin Barry in East Tamaki yesterday. Photo / Dean Purcell
Joseph Parker (right) spars in the ring with trainer Kevin Barry in East Tamaki yesterday. Photo / Dean Purcell

Before making the journey from Las Vegas to Auckland for the upcoming IBF heavyweight title eliminator fight against Carlos Takam, Kevin Barry sat in his home office and typed a long email to Joseph Parker's mother, Sala.

In it, Parker's trainer of the past three years specified his expectations in terms of focus for his 24-year-old charge who stands on the brink of a career-defining fight against the dangerous Takam. A victory will put him into a world title fight, and probably against Anthony Joshua, one of the most popular boxers in Great Britain and a rising force in the sport.

Barry doesn't want any distractions for Parker before he steps into the ring at Manukau's Vodafone Events Centre a week on Saturday week and that sentiment made up the bulk of the email. And Sala, in charge of her son's management team, and at ringside for most of his fights, is of the same mind.

"I said, 'look, we're getting into a position now where it's become real'," Barry said.

"But this is just the tip of the iceberg, we've got much bigger fights if we get things right on the 21st.

"I said 'I don't need the distractions. I don't need people dragging Joe around and showing him off. I need us to work together as a team'. I reached out to Joe's mum because she's the head of Joe's management team. Joe has to have the rest and relaxation I need him to have ... we need everything done correctly.

"She said, 'thank you so much for the email ... Kevin, I've spoken to everyone, you'll have everything you want, all the assistance from the family'."

None of Parker's family or team are under any illusions about the challenge, including, not surprisingly, the man himself, who has just undergone a gruelling 12-week training camp.

Parker said: "I have this team around me to take care of things ... they help me focus on what I have to do because at the end of the day the fight is the most important thing."

Barry added: "Joe's not a child and I'm not a headmaster. I'm his coach, I'm his mentor. I'm a father figure to him. We have spent enough time together over the past three years to know what's right for him. He knows what he has to do."

The team believe every angle has been covered in preparation, and while Takam is justifiably proud of his 35-year-old body, which appears in very good shape, so is Parker.

"Ask Kevin, when you walk into my room at night, I'm doing push-ups or sit-ups - I'm trying to look good, you know?"

As the stakes have risen, so has the need for more secrecy around Parker's game plan, although it doesn't take a genius to know the New Zealander, who will have a height and reach advantage, will want to fight on the outside.

During the week of his last fight - against Jason Bergman in Apia, Samoa - Barry demonstrated a liver punch which southpaws are more susceptible to. Yesterday, at Parker's training venue in South Auckland, no such tactics were shared.

"We've been very generous," Barry told the media, "but we're not going to show what we're working on today." This was in the middle of a pads session with Parker, who was throwing fairly orthodox left and right hands. "It's no secret that Joe has a good jab," Barry said.

Parker did, however, suggest he would go to Takam's body early, and that his opponent's pressing style could present him with opportunities.

"My goal is to box smartly, use my distance and reach and move around. But if he comes forward and makes a mistake or opens up, I'm taking whatever he's going to present."

- NZ Herald

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