Life as a professional sportsman is one full of challenges, and former heavyweight world champion boxer Joseph Parker has had his fair share.

Rising through the world rankings through the first half of the 2010s, Parker sent opponents back one after the other. By the end of 2015, Parker had amassed a 17-0 professional record with 14 wins by knockout. By the end of 2016, he was the WBO world champion with a 21-0 record.

Speaking to Radio Sport's Jim Kayes, Parker revealed that despite winning his fights he faced plenty of challenges and wasn't making the right decisions early in his career.

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"Some of the camps I didn't take seriously," Parker admitted. "Even though I was winning the fights, I wasn't taking some of the camps seriously; I was going out when I shouldn't have been going out and had a few drinks here and there. I've had a few challenges throughout my career.

"I've had my ups and downs. I've had a lot of downs through my career that not many people know of. For me, born in South Auckland and all of a sudden training in Las Vegas, fighting around the world, it was something new.

Joseph Parker won the WBO heavyweight world title in 2016. Photo / Photosport
Joseph Parker won the WBO heavyweight world title in 2016. Photo / Photosport

"I had my challenges and I got through them; it's good learning. It's important to have a good team around you to keep you grounded and also give you advice and guidance on where you should be investing your money. You're not going to have it forever and you're not going to be earning forever."

The 28-year-old said it got to a point where his sister began to worry about him, but conversations with his family as well as the birth of his children helped him turn things around.

"I look back and wonder what the hell I was thinking and why I was doing it," Parker said. "Then I look back and say well that was the old me and I can have a laugh at it now. That's why I feel the second phase of my career is going to be a lot better because I'm way more focused and motivated."

The latter part of the last decade was full of opportunities and lessons for Parker. He defended his world title twice, before suffering his first career loss in a title unification bout against IBF, IBA and WBA (Super) heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in Wales in 2018.

Later that year, he suffered his second loss to Britain's Dillian Whyte, sending him back to the drawing board to find a way back into title contention.

Now, with three straight knockout victories to his name, most recently a fifth-round win over American Shawndell Winters in February, Parker can see the path back to a title fight.

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Joseph Parker beat Shawndell Winters by fifth-round knockout in February. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing
Joseph Parker beat Shawndell Winters by fifth-round knockout in February. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing

That path would ideally include fights against at least two of Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, Britain's Dereck Chisora and a rematch against Whyte, Parker said, and he has a timeframe in mind in which he believed he could fight for the title again. However, that timeline will be on hold for the foreseeable future with the boxing world, like many sporting codes, halted by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

"I was happy to get a fight at the beginning of the year because now look what's happened, all the fights that had been booked have been pushed out," Parker said. "Now, hoping and praying that this settles down in due time, the plan for me – I've said it to the team, David Higgins and my management team, I've said it to Eddie Hearn – just give me anyone in the top five or top 10.

"I think that I can fight for the world title again, when this is done, it will take probably a year's time as long as they give me good opponents to fight I'll get there quite fast.

"I feel I can (be the best in the world). The reason I say that is because there's a lot of things in the past that I didn't do correctly in camp or I was going into camp not fit and not in shape and using it as a way to get into shape again. Now it's different. In my off time, I'm keeping in shape; I'm fit, strong and ready to go."