bet365’s Mark Mothershaw sits down with former WBO heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker as the New Zealander prepares for Saturday night’s hugely anticipated showdown with the unbeaten Joe Joyce
First of all Joseph, 72 hours away from fight night - where are you mentally and physically; you look calm and relaxed… and seemingly in a good, positive place?
“I am feeling confident going into this fight, and like you say, I am feeling very relaxed and calm. When you know that you have done all of the work and preparation in camp then you are usually calm, relaxed and confident at this point.
“I feel as though I have done everything right, I have ticked all the boxes. Now I just want to get inside the ring now and put in a really good performance.”
There has been plenty said between yourself and Joe Joyce over the past couple of months – a slightly different approach to the way you usually build fights up. Is there any animosity between the two of you or is it all playful banter?
“It isn’t animosity, it is all playful – a bit of banter never hurts. We have been going back and forth. Listen, myself and Joe (Joyce) are no good at trash-talking. We are good at fighting, and that is what we are going to do on Saturday night.
“This bit of playful banter in the build-up to the fight just brings a little bit more out of us. It is something for people to see, but ultimately it is all about the fight and that is exactly what we have been training hard for.”
You’ve certainly put the hard yards in for this weekend’s fight... what are you expecting from Joe Joyce, an unbeaten heavyweight with lofty ambitions within the professional ranks?
“He is very durable, he has a really good engine. He comes forward, he takes a shot and everybody knows the positive things he does in a ring. So, it is going to be a tough challenge because of everything he presents. He is undefeated, he has only gone the distance once and he is 14 and 0, so he has never tasted defeat.
“He has this confidence going into the fight that he will win, win, win and win. But I am going to put a stop to that, and say ‘hold on Joe, you have come up against somebody who has lots of experience, someone who has lots to give the sport and someone who has trained damn hard!’
Is it fair to suggest that he hasn’t shared a ring with somebody of your experience, a former world champion – a fighter at your level?
“He hasn’t shared a ring with me but he does have a lot of experience, especially from his amateur days. But, as you say, he has never fought anybody like me. I am fresh, I am young and I am hungry. I am still hungry and even though I have achieved some good things in boxing, I want to achieve more.”
You’ve reached the summit of the heavyweight division already in your career Joseph, claiming the WBO crown. What drives you on now, at this stage of your career?
“I am doing it for me now! I am doing it for the goals I have and for my immediate family, my wife and my kids! When you have that purpose that you are fighting for, you know you are going to fight right until the very end.
“When I achieved what I did in the past, I wasn’t at my happiest. It wasn’t all fully for myself and I had a bit of a downfall afterwards where I would go out and do this and do that, and wasn’t focussed or able to enjoy or love what I had achieved.
“But now that I am doing it again, and doing things properly, I am enjoying it and am loving it, and I have the passion for it again. It is all going to mean something different this time because it is for me, fully for me, and my wife and kids.”
So if you do reach that pinnacle again in the future, you are going to savour that moment and be in a position to really take it in with far greater pride…
“Absolutely. If I ever get that moment again, of being champion of the world, or even fighting to become champion of the world, then I am going to enjoy it. I will treasure it and hold on to it for longer than I can – a lot longer than I did the first time.”
You’ve made changes behind the scenes over the past 18 months. Andy Lee has stepped in as head trainer, you are based in Morecambe and working alongside the WBC champion, Tyson Fury. How have those changes benefitted you?
“Listen, when you have somebody like Andy Lee, with his experience and with his kind of career, you can only improve. He is a great coach and is working with other fighters too, people like Paddy Donovan, he had Jason Quigley and works with Tyson Fury too.
“When you work with somebody like Andy Lee, who is not only a trainer but also a teacher, then you are only going to improve a lot in camp. I felt like a beginner when I started working with him, not because I wasn’t good, but more so because of what he was teaching me.
“A lot of it was basic as well, and when you add to the mix too, with his energy, positivity and with his mentality, then you can only gain confidence. When you surround yourself with those sort of people, great people, then that is only going to help you to become great yourself.”
Tyson’s openly offered himself up to help train other fighters previously – most notably Anthony Joshua. Where others have declined those advances, you evidently were not willing to let such an opportunity pass you by…
“I wasn’t going to let that opportunity go. I was the champion of the world, and I am now building myself back up to become champion of the world again. At the moment Tyson (Fury) is at the top of the tree now, and (Oleksandr) too.
“When he reached out and said he could help me, I really didn’t know what to expect. But now I am over here in England, based in Morecambe, training with Andy Lee and with Tyson too, at his gym, I have a great set-up. It is the best set-up that any fighter could ever want in their career, and right now, I have it all.”
As far as you are concerned then, there are absolutely no excuses as we edge closer towards fight night in Manchester this weekend?
“Absolutely no excuses! There is no reason why I should lose this fight. If I look at the fight, Joe Joyce is a tough fighter, but I am more skilled, I have better movement, I can take a punch myself and I have never had an issue with going the distance, through all 12 rounds. It is all about who is able to execute their plan first, and I have a great plan in place.”
Just touching back upon the influence of Tyson, you’ve both reached the pinnacle, you have both endured tough times away from boxing too – there is an enormous amount the two of you have in common…
“We are very close, we are like brothers! Everybody can say what they want, things like we should be fighting each other, we shouldn’t be this close, but things happen for a reason.
“If it wasn’t for Tyson, I wouldn’t be here. If it wasn’t for Tyson, I wouldn’t have Andy Lee. If it wasn’t for Tyson I wouldn’t have the gym that I am using, the house I am staying in and the connections that I have.
“What more can I be. I am just thankful. He has his own fights lined-up, and guys that he wants to fight. I have my own path and hopefully I can end up at the top right with him.”
You’ve just mentioned your new base over here in Morecambe, a world away from your family back home in New Zealand. How tough is it for a fighter to go through camps for such a long period without that one-on-one connection with those you love the most?
“Now that I have my own family, it is the toughest part about being boxing. Leaving your family behind, and not being able to spend time with your wife and your kids. Not being there for them when they are going to school, activities and classes.
“I do get to talk to them in the morning and in the evening on video call, but it isn’t the same. When they are crying you can’t do anything about it. I am stuck here. My daughter is having issues with going to school because she is really sad all the time, so not only does it affect me as a fighter, it affects everybody back home, which is tough.
“I am going to make it worth it though. I am going to make it worth being away from my family, and missing everything I am missing back home. But when I do get home I am going to have a great time with them and give them my full attention. They need that, and they deserve it because we have all missed out on things because of my career.”
That example you have just given is just one of many difficult aspects that you, as a fighter, have to contend with away from the public eye…
“It is, but listen, being a fighter, there are so many rewards. If you reach the top you get paid well, you get good sponsorships, you make new friends and you travel around the world. But there is also a flipside of that, which is hard and sometimes very sad.
“But it is what we do. A lot of people will say that is what we sign up for in this career and others will feel sorry for us, but it is the job I have chosen, this is what I have dreamed about all of my life. So I am just so thankful to my wife and kids for being understanding, patient and being there to support me in fulfilling what I am trying to do.”
Are you surprised that Joe has agreed to take this fight on, given his mandatory position with the WBO?
“I’m not surprised no, because Joe, like me, is a fighter. He wants to fight the best out there and I believe that I am one of the best. When you have somebody who believes he is best against an opponent who feels he is the best, then it makes for a great match-up.
“It is going to be a great fight. We will put it all on the line. We already are putting it on the line given it is the number one contender against the number two, but in the ring it is going to be a different story.”
Finally, the stakes are incredibly high this weekend; you know that, Joe Joyce knows that. But for Joseph Parker, how does this fight play out?
“The answer to that question is… I am going to win this fight. The stakes are high but with the experience I have and given what I have achieved so far, and what I know I am capable of achieving in boxing still, I will get the job done.
“It is going to be a tough fight – I know that. But it is up to me now how I want to approach this fight and how I want to execute the plan. If I do that well then it is going to be a good night for me and I am going to get the win.
“I am full of confidence, I have ticked all the right boxes, as I said before, I have a great team of people around me – Andy Lee, Tyson Fury, my brother John Parker is with me too. Even my parents are over from New Zealand too.
“When you have all of that behind you, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be confident and why you should be afraid, nervous or doubtful. I truly feel as good as I ever have before. I am all-in. I am motivated. I am ready and I am going to do the business!”