Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Boxing: Joseph Parker's rival - defeat would be 'bad joke'

Russian Alexander Dimitrenko and Kiwi Joseph Parker attended an Auckland press conference today ahead of Saturday's bout. Photo / Photosport.
Russian Alexander Dimitrenko and Kiwi Joseph Parker attended an Auckland press conference today ahead of Saturday's bout. Photo / Photosport.

Joseph Parker is limiting his time on social media in order to block out the talk of a title fight against Anthony Joshua as he attempts to focus on his bout against Alexander Dimitrenko in Manukau on Saturday.

And in case the 24-year-old New Zealander was allowing his attention to waver towards a potential meeting against IBF heavyweight champion Joshua in Manchester in November, giant Russian Dimitrenko delivered it in their press conference in Auckland today when he said: "He's already looking behind me and concentrating on Anthony Joshua instead of me. There could be a bad joke if he doesn't concentrate on [our] fight and continues to look forward."

Their meeting today was a cordial affair following Parker's comments last week that he felt disrespected by Dimitrenko questioning his points victory over Carlos Takam in May, a unanimous decision that handed Parker his mandatory challenger's position to Joshua's title.

There were handshakes and even a wink from Parker after Dimitrenko stated a fortnight ago that he had looked into the South Aucklander's eyes and had seen he wasn't ready for the challenge he would provide.

Dimitrenko said: "I can see he's ready for the fight. I'm ready for the fight. We'll see how it goes down on Saturday."

Parker, who has his parents Sala and Dempsey staying in the same downtown Auckland hotel as he prepares for what could be his final fight before his title challenge, said they are proving valuable sounding boards as the heavyweight division enters yet another Tyson Fury-inspired state of flux.

Fury's health issues could lead to him being stripped of his WBO and WBA titles, and Parker, No1 contender for the WBO belt, said of focus: "My mum and dad told me... that 'if you don't get past this guy, then what's the point of focusing on those other names?'.

"In Vegas I get a lot of downtime and use social media a lot more, but here... I'm hardly on social media, which is good; I'm keeping away from the news and the things that are happening."

The focus bodes well because there is a feeling within the Parker camp that his last truly great performance in the ring was against Brazilian Irineu Beato Costa Junior in Hamilton on December 6, 2014.

Since then, Parker has had eight fights, with seven knockouts, but he said today: "Since the Costa fight, I haven't really had the spark... There are a few things that we have seen in this camp which suggest the spark is coming back. It makes [trainer] Kevin [Barry] and I excited because ... I feel like we are going to see that spark again on fight night."

Barry suggested the fight wouldn't go the distance if Parker followed the plan and showed the sort of form he has displayed in training.

"I'd like to think that Joe can get in there and do what he's showing me in the gym and eventually break this guy down," Barry said. "But he's a big, strong guy, we're going to have to chop him down and it's something we're going to have to do right from the outset.

"This is a fight that I don't want Joe to just cruise through the first two or three rounds and let Dimitrenko get comfortable and let him build up a bit of rhythm. We need to put something hard on him right from the outset.

"Joe's last three performances were all good wins but he's capable of so much better than that."

Barry said he had no doubt that Parker could block out the distractions, saying: "We've been in this situation quite a few times where we have fought an opponent and we've already had someone else signed. Joe has gone through this exercise.

"When you conduct your business in the future, you know your performance is going to suffer."

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