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

Boxing: Hughie Fury is big and awkward but no Andy Ruiz

The aggressive Andy Ruiz Jr forced Joseph Parker on to the back foot for much of their WBO title fight last year. / Photo: Photosport
The aggressive Andy Ruiz Jr forced Joseph Parker on to the back foot for much of their WBO title fight last year. / Photo: Photosport

Hughie Fury, the 22-year-old Englishman on a mission to relieve Joseph Parker of his WBO world heavyweight title belt in Auckland on May 6, is tall and awkward like his cousin Tyson, but he's no Andy Ruiz Jr.

Against Mexican Ruiz Jr in their fight for the title at Vector Arena in December, Kiwi Parker spent almost the entire 12 rounds fighting on the back foot in a majority points victory, a fight which Hughie Fury feels Ruiz Jr deserved to win.

Ruiz Jr's tactics came as no surprise to Parker or trainer Kevin Barry - the pair had prepared for that come-forward style during their Las Vegas camp - but they were difficult to counter nevertheless, and especially so when put together with Ruiz Jr's hand speed and durability.

One of Parker's great strengths is his hand speed, but even he was often beaten to the punch before he found his rhythm in the second half of the fight.

Listed at 1.88m, but almost certainly shorter in reality, Ruiz Jr is not the tallest of heavyweights, and after Parker's struggles against the 1.87m Carlos Takam in his previous fight, a world title eliminator, it's clear Parker performs better against bigger opponents who have a larger body area to attack.

Fury has that. At 1.98m, he is a big man, but, while nothing is guaranteed in the world of professional boxing, the 1.93m Parker should have an easier night of it this time.

He will have a clear advantage in terms of hand and foot speed and the ability to punch in combinations. Even trainer Barry, in the business of talking up opponents pre-fight, has conceded Fury should in theory suit Parker better.

"He's definitely a bigger challenge for the fact that he's six foot six," Barry said. "Will he bring the pressure that Andy Ruiz brought? Probably not. But I've studied him for some time and I feel he's getting better with every entry to the ring.

"He's very well coached by his father Peter, he's got a tremendous amateur pedigree - he's a very difficult, very awkward guy who uses his height and reach very well. I don't see this being an easy fight for us, I see this being a serious challenge and one we'll take very seriously."

The lessons of the Takam training camp - overlong at 12 weeks - have stayed with the Parker team. The 25-year-old has eased off training for the past fortnight in order to give his body a rest and will start sparring next week, the first of what is effectively now an eight-week camp.

Parker also had issues during his camp prior to the Ruiz Jr fight, including the emotional upheaval of the birth of his first child and other family celebrations, and will be hoping for a smoother, more productive camp this time.

"We feel very good about where his condition is at and where his confidence is at," Barry said.

"We've put a very good game plan in place. In this fight you'll see different tactics to what we saw in the last fight where we saw Joe mostly on the back foot. In this fight against Fury I think Joe will have to make the fight. He'll have to be the aggressor, the guy coming forward because I don't see that in Hughie's style."

- NZ Herald

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