LONDON (AP) — Joseph Parker has no problems and no complaints.
To Anthony Joshua, who Parker will meet in a world heavyweight unification title fight in Cardiff next week, he warned on Friday: “You’re going to get the full Joseph Parker.”
The no-excuses line by Parker set the tone when he met the media for the first time since arriving in Britain from Las Vegas, where a nine-week training camp went so well that, he quipped, “I’m starting to see some abs come along.”
It was revealed this week that the unbeaten WBO champion from New Zealand hasn’t been the full Joseph Parker for more than two years. Not until after surgeries last Nov. 25 and Dec. 1 to repair his elbows.
His trainer, Kevin Barry, said he was supposed to have the surgeries two years ago to originally remove bone chips. But career-defining fight offers arrived and they decided the pain was a manageable risk. There was the IBF eliminator in May 2016 with Carlos Takam. Then a shot came at the vacant WBO belt that December against Andy Ruiz. Then came the defense last September with Hughie Fury.
Parker won those three and three other fights over the two years, enduring criticism for some performances, and all the while allowing bone spurs to develop and calcify over the elbow joints. He couldn’t straighten his left arm, and struggled to jab.
“I know the pain Joe has had to go through on a daily basis, and how he’s been able to achieve some of the successes he’s had are just very, very mind-boggling,” Barry said at their first London news conference. “When the surgeon looked at the initial damage that was done to Joe’s elbows, he asked how was he able to perform at a world-elite level? That speaks to the character of (Parker).
“You will all see a huge improvement on March 31 compared to what you were looking at last year.”
“The previous five, six fights I haven’t showed the jab I had earlier in my career, so it’s very important I have it back,” he said. “We’re seeing at the gym, every day, double jab, triple jab, sometimes 10 jabs. There’s going to be a lot of jabs, and hopefully they land in the right place … the nose, the head, the chin.”
Barry believed Parker hurt his elbows from developing his size and power. He said Parker, as an amateur, had fast hands and won on points, not knockouts. But in reinventing his style to suit the pros, the elbows were damaged.
Now Parker and his team insist everything is OK.
“Previous fights were not my best displays. (The operations) have made a big difference,” Parker said. “That’s why we’re confident in what we can achieve.”
Those recent lackluster performances have contributed to Parker being regarded as a firm underdog against Joshua, who is also unbeaten and putting up his WBA, IBF and lightly regarded IBO belts. Parker embraces it.
“The public are underestimating myself and my team. They’re judging us on our last two or three fights, and I think they see Joshua as unbeatable,” he said. “There’s an element of surprise (for us). Everyone thinks it’s going to be an easy win for him. That’s motivation for us. We’ve had a great camp, done everything right. I just want to get in there and bash him.”
Thanks to the camp, Parker confirmed he will weigh in about four kilograms (nine pounds) lighter, at 108 kilograms (238 pounds), than against Fury.
Little else fazes him.
In reaction to Joshua reportedly saying this week he regarded Parker as a “weird character” and didn’t like him or his promoters, who he considered two-faced, Parker said: “He stepped out of his comfort zone and said something interesting. He’s been boring lately.”
About fighting for the first time in front of a crowd of about 78,000, he was excited, and hoped to see fans from New Zealand and Samoa.
He’s thought about what would happen if he knocked out Joshua.
“Lots and lots of cheers,” he said. “I’ve played out many scenarios in my mind, that one is the best one.”
Barry chipped in: “You’ll hear the fans all the way from New Zealand.”