Joseph Parker has a new killer instinct, one described as "ruthless" and "brutal", and considered absolutely necessary for him to become a world champion.
Developed over the last year or so, but especially noticeable in his last fight against Alexander Dimitrenko in October, it is seen as a crucial element to his winning the WBO heavyweight title against Andy Ruiz Jr at Vector Arena on December 10.
Parker dropped Dimitrenko several times in the fight in Manukau, but his final knockdown in round three was delivered with a body shot after the tall Dimitrenko put a knee on the canvas.
It was the culmination of a new harder attitude, one which had appeared in his previous knockouts of Brian Minto and Jason Pettaway, and one which the 24-year-old Parker and his trainer Kevin Barry say will take him to the title. Undefeated over 21 professional fights, Parker has 18 knockout wins to his name. Ruiz Jr has 19 knockouts in 29 fights, including only two in his last six.
Barry's second fight with Parker was against veteran Frans Botha in June, 2013, a stunning, second-round knockout victory in which Parker had the South African staggered against the ropes but didn't go in for the kill. That's changed now.
"I wanted to get him out of there but I didn't really want to hurt him as bad," Parker said at his Las Vegas base. "But now it's a different mentality, you want to get them out of there, this is your time, you have been working so hard so why not?
"I know it sounds pretty harsh but why not smash them? Get them out of there and then be friends later on.
"I think it's something that has developed over time. In the beginning it was sort of there but now it's really there.
"It's a quality you need to be a world champion, you have to have that killer instinct, when the opportunity arises, you have to take it with both hands.
Boxing aficionado Sir Bob Jones, a former manager of Parker's, told the Herald recently the charismatic South Aucklander had developed a ruthless streak inside and outside the ring.
And Barry revealed that Parker had been hard on some of his sparring partners recently, a result of his superior skill, speed, power and in particular his mindset.
After Barry took over Parker's training on an eight-week contract, Botha was their first significant fight together and it was organised at short notice. Barry felt the step up was significant because of Botha's experience and knowledge; the man known as the "White Buffalo" taunted Parker in the build-up, calling him "Baby Joseph".
But while the finish was spectacular, Barry recalls it wasn't as ruthless as it could have been.
"The only thing was that killer [instinct] was still in his infancy stage, because when he had Botha gone and he's on the ropes... Joe was like this (pauses), and all he had to do was to drive a two-foot punch into the side of his head and he would have hurt him badly," Barry said. "But he didn't throw it, because the real killer wasn't there, but it is now. He wouldn't hesitate."
Asked when Parker's mentality changed, Barry said: "It's been there for a while. We've sparred hundreds and hundreds of rounds in the last four years. Some of the guys that we've sparred have become quite friendly with us, they're guys that we socialise with. Joe is brutal. And he holds no malice, but he is brutal. Not all the time, but when he chooses to be."
* Patrick McKendry travelled to Las Vegas with assistance from Duco Events.