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

Boxing: 'When I jump in the ring the switch is on'

There is comfort in routine and Joseph Parker won't deviate from what has served him so well over his short but spectacular 18-fight professional career before he makes his way to the ring and the biggest fight of his life just after 10.30 tonight.

Well, one thing will be different. After the 24-year-old stripped off his Muhammad Ali T-shirt and "Toa Samoa" singlet to weigh in at a trim 106.4kg at the venue yesterday afternoon, he announced his walk to the ring would be accompanied by a new song. Apart from that, it will be business as usual.

That means a breakfast of oatmeal, fruit and yoghurt just after 8am at his downtown Auckland hotel, a walk in the fresh air with his mates afterwards, and cards, music and PlayStation on his return. He will have a nap after lunch - chicken pasta - and an early dinner of the same meal, before he gets in the car for the venue at 7pm. Last night, as has become traditional, he was scheduled to share a prayer with his family.

There will be fun in the dressing room as the minutes tick by. The waiting can be a trial for many boxers, but Parker refuses to go down that route.

"It's time for you to showcase what you can do," he said. "On fight day I'm relaxed, but really excited inside. We're dancing, singing and telling jokes and everyone's having a good time. I feel that's the best way of going about it.

"When I'm walking to the ring, that's when I start to feel the switch turn. When I jump into the ring, the switch is on."

He is aware the switch will need to be on against Carlos Takam, a 35-year-old who appears to be in the shape of his life. Takam will enter the ring with a 3kg weight advantage, but there are signs he could also be weighed down by nerves.

Takam refused to answer any questions from the media at yesterday's weigh-in, which played into the hands of the easy-going Parker, who said: "Maybe he's nervous, I'm not sure. Maybe he doesn't get this media attention back home or for any other fight. He's either keeping to himself or he's nervous about [the fight].

"I'm expecting a crazy crowd, a loud crowd. Fighting at home for me is a special feeling. It gives me confidence ... he might see it as pressure for me, but I think the pressure is on him. This might be his last chance to get to a stage like this. He's getting old and he's getting to the end of his career. I'm still a young fighter at the age of 24. There will be many more opportunities but this is the opportunity I want to make a statement at."

A victory in one of the most important fights ever held in New Zealand will make Parker the mandatory challenger for Anthony Joshua's IBF heavyweight title.

After a 12-week camp at his Las Vegas base, Parker feels ready, and he certainly looks it. The key now will be to stay relaxed and to follow a game plan of keeping his distance with his renowned jab. Hitting and moving will be vital against a man who will come forward relentlessly but that in itself will offer Parker, a man with probably the fastest hands in the division, opportunities.

"I'm expecting him to throw a lot of punches and to hunt me down.

"With this fight you're going to see a different focus. I've never fought anyone who brings the pressure that he does or throws the punches that he throws.

"His style suits my style. I have fought guys who have run away and it takes a while to chase them, break them down and finish it. With guys who come forward I have always caught them with good shots and put them away early. We'll see. He's well prepared."

- NZ Herald

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