Joseph Parker has hit back at opponent Alexander Dimitrenko's "disrespectful" claims he "lost" his IBF eliminator fight against Carlos Takam awarded to him by unanimous decision.
In training for his fight against Dimitrenko in Manukau on October 1, Parker has packed on more power and speed thanks to a new weights programme, and the giant Russian could bear the brunt of an attack that carries a little more edge when the pair meet at the Vodafone Events Centre.
Dimitrenko initially made his claims in a press conference in Hamburg before departing for Auckland, and stood by them when challenged by the Herald recently, insisting Parker would have lost the fight in May against French-Cameroon heavyweight Takam had it been held in France.
"I just find it disrespectful," was Parker's response today.
"This is my home, and he's come here disrespecting me. I respect every fighter I get in the ring with. If I went to his home country I wouldn't disrespect him. Takam was a hard fight, and I trained really hard for that. It was a close fight, but Takam's team and our team knew that we won. For him to come here and disrespect us like that, I don't like it."
Parker said Dimitrenko didn't mention anything when the pair did a promotion shoot together several months ago, adding: "maybe saying it to the media gives him confidence within himself".
The pair will meet again next Wednesday at a press conference, and then again two days later at the weigh-in, two encounters which could add a little more spice to a fight which is seen as high risk for Parker ahead of his potential world title fight against Anthony Joshua which could happen as early as November, but more like in March.
"I've seen him be a little annoyed this week, which is unusual for Joe," trainer Kevin Barry said. "Usually things like that are water off a duck's back. I think he took it a little personally.
"The Carlos Takam fight was a fight that he was very proud of in terms of the result. Everybody knows he won the Takam fight, including Takam's team, so for Dimitrenko to come here to New Zealand and disrespect Joe like that, it's got under his skin a little bit... it's upset him a little.
Parker, who is likely to weigh in at 107kg-108kg - similar to his last fight against Solomon Haumono in Christchurch in July - feels he has just undergone his best preparation ever for a fight.
It was short and sharp - which he prefers - but the work has been hard and intense. During his camp at his Las Vegas base he sparred 93 rounds against much bigger men in preparation for the 2.01m Dimitrenko, his tallest opponent so far.
"There is a risk of losing that mandatory position and it's probably given me extra motivation or extra focus that I have to keep on track," Parker said. "This is a fight I have to win."
Barry added: "We're very close to a historic fight, a life-changing fight for Joe. To have done this in a little over three-and-a-half years is pretty damn special and very impressive. There is still a chance that next Monday when they make the release of who [Joshua's] new opponent is it very well still could be Joseph Parker for the November fight. When you got those things hanging over your head it does lift his game, it makes things a little bit more intense."