Professional boxing is a mystery to most of us, a sport that appears to have more to do with money and show business than honest-to-goodness athleticism and skill. In Joseph Parker, New Zealand has a young exponent with obvious athletic qualities and unusual speed for a heavyweight. But even his bouts to date have had the look of a carefully staged progression against opponents who performed better at the weigh-in than they did in the ring.

This time is different, we are assured. Parker's Cameroonian-French opponent tonight, 35-year-old Carlos Takam, is said to present a test he could fail.

Takam did not perform so well at the weigh-in on Thursday, taking it delightfully lightly. That could mean he is reserving his serious performance for the real thing. One of his sparring partners describes Takam as "a serious, serious contender - not the kind of guy you pick for an opponent".

If Parker wins, he will be in line for a fight for one of the world heavyweight titles. It's an exciting prospect for New Zealand, which has not had a boxer this close to the top since David Tua. It must be an advantage that his trainer, Kevin Barry who also handled Tua, has climbed this mountain before. He has produced another modest and personable young performer, as appealing in public as he is at his craft. Parker has New Zealand and Samoa behind him tonight as he bids for a chance to go for the summit. Here's to him.