By Dylan Cleaver in Providence
In a candid nod to past failings, former WBO world heavyweight champ Joseph Parker said he has lacked professionalism in his career and his discipline would frequently "go off track".
Trainer Kevin Barry yesterday admitted to being pleasantly surprised at the shape in which Parker turned up to camp in Las Vegas ahead of his fight with Alex Leapai this weekend, having gotten used to seeing a bloated Parker arrive on his doorstep.
"The six years I have been professional I have never kept in shape," said Parker in Providence, Rhode Island, where he is co-main event to the Demetrius Andrade v Maciej Sulecki world WBO middleweight bout.
"In between camps I would go off track with my eating and having fun with my friends."
To celebrate his new three-fight partnership with Eddie Hearn's powerful Matchroom franchise, a deal that will likely be extended as long as he keeps winning, Parker decided to turn over a new leaf.
"I eat more greens," he says with just the hint of a wince. "I never used to eat greens. I hated them. Now I actually enjoy them.
"I'd never actually eaten beetroot, now I like it, it's not bad. It's actually quite good. I used to get my burger, open it and throw it out."
The result? He turned up to work with Barry and could immediately start focusing on upskilling, rather than weight loss.
"I was ready to go."
The thing that makes Parker look back with some regret was that it wasn't hard to do. When he moved into a new house with his partner Laine and daughters Elizabeth, Shiloh and Michaela, he started working to a strict schedule for the first time.
"I was training in the mornings and then playing with the kids. Then I'd train in the evening. It wasn't hard. I've learnt. It's maturity. It's balance."
Parker, 27, insists the new regime wasn't the result of a career wake-up call having lost two fights in succession – a unification bout with Anthony Joshua and a close loss to Dillian Whyte. If that had been the case, he said, he would have learned his lesson after the Joshua fight.
"I lost to Joshua, lost the belt, and went off track again right before the Dillian Whyte fight."
He came into that camp weighing 120kg, which was still 3kg lighter than before his shot at Joshua.
"If I'd come into camp at 112kg it would have been different. I would have been focusing on skills and techniques but instead I came in at 120 – I was fat. It's just a waste of time losing all that weight. It's the wrong focus."
Parker looks trim. He looks relaxed. The late change of opponent from the taller Eric Molina to journeyman Samoan-Australian Leapai has done little to faze him.
He is, even accounting for boxing's hype and bravado, expected to win easily but Parker has recently seen another late replacement, Andy Ruiz Jr, cause a shock when he took Joshua's belts.
"Leapai, even though people say he's not in shape or he's had his time, he's still a dangerous fighter. Heavyweights carry power, no matter what age or how many fights they've had.
"Alex will come forward and load up on big shots. I have to adjust to make sure I don't get hit. I'm going to box and move and break him down. Smash his face. I give him respect because he's stepping in the ring, but now I have to do what I have to do.
"If I could finish in the first 10 seconds I'd love to. I could have a burger ..."
He'll leave the beetroot in.
Dylan Cleaver travelled to the US courtesy of Duco