Joseph Parker's preparation for his world heavyweight championship unification bout against Anthony Joshua was hindered by the distressing news that his younger brother John had been diagnosed with a potentially fatal brain condition.
John, 24, was scheduled to fight on the undercard of the Joshua v Parker clash in Cardiff in April but a routine pre-bout physical examination in New Zealand discovered an aneurysm, throwing his life, not to mention his boxing career, into a state of flux.
The bombshell is revealed in a Sky Sport NZ documentary Joseph Parker: Metamorphosis, which follows Parker and his team in the build-up to and immediate aftermath of the main event at the Principality Stadium, won by decision after 12 rounds by Englishman Joshua. It was Parker's first loss as a professional.
The reasons for John's withdrawal from the fight card were never made clear – there was talk of a hand injury – so the revelation in the documentary by the clearly upset Parker brothers resonates strongly in the 45-minute film for which directors and producers Gareth Thorne and Kerry Russell had unprecedented access.
A brain aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel, which, if it ruptures, is often deadly. The Herald understands John will see a specialist next month, with surgery a possibility.
Joseph, 26, begins the dramatic story in an interview before his clash with Joshua by revealing how close he is with John – "We're always on the phone… the whole camp I was like, 'I can't wait to catch up with him'," – and how their father, Dempsey, broke the news.
"I called my dad at home and we had a good chat," Joseph says. "We had a few good laughs. And out of nowhere he said 'oh yeah, your brother's not fighting'. Why is that? 'Oh, there's something wrong with his brain.' I said 'what do you mean, dad?'. He said it so casually."
Clearly there was concern not only for John but also how the news would affect Joseph before the biggest fight of his life. To his credit, Joseph fought extremely well for the first half of the fight only to fade over the final six rounds.
His next assignment as he attempts to work his way back to a mandatory challenge for the world title is a high-profile bout with another Englishman, Dillian Whyte, at London's O2 Arena on July 28.
John, a talented amateur who has had four professional fights, picks up the story: "This was my first international fight and under international rules I had to get a full body scan to make sure I was eligible to fight. After the scan they contacted my coach Bryan Barry and he called me up. He said 'Look John, it's really important, I need you to come home.' That was unusual. I thought, 'Oh damn, what have I done, I'm sure I hung up my washing'.
"I sat down and he said 'I have to let you know, you absolutely can't fight'. I said 'why?'. He said, 'there's something in your brain, you have an aneurysm'."
Joseph says: "I called Bryan and found out that John had had an MRI scan which showed an aneurysm in his brain which is like a little blood clot.
"We looked it up and found out it was life threatening if the little bubble popped because you'd bleed out in the brain … and potentially die.
"I'm gutted he's going to miss the fight but I'm so happy he's not fighting. We're going to fix this.
"It's important that every fighter every year gets a check-up. You don't want to risk your life if there's something wrong. You can always miss out on a fight but you can never get your life back."
After the fight, which was dogged by an eccentric performance by Italian referee Giuseppe Quartarone, who refused to let the pair – and particularly Joseph, engage on the inside - an emotional John tells his interviewer: "Man, it was hard seeing Joe fight every round and seeing the big blows and big punches that were being exchanged. It was heart wrenching. Every punch – it felt like it was me being hit.
"I couldn't be more proud."
Joseph Parker: Metamorphosis first screens on Sky Sport 3 on Monday, July 2, at 8.30pm.