Heavyweight Joseph Parker
carries a permanent and visible reminder of his failure to
stick to a game plan and, as he prepares to fight on the
undercard of Alex Leapai's world title challenge against
Vladimir Klitschko in Germany in April, he is determined to put
his lesson to good use.
Parker's last fight ended with a TKO victory over Afa Tatupu
at Waitakere's Trusts Arena in October. However, he finished
the bout - more of a brawl than anything resembling the sweet
science - with blood streaming down his face, the result of a
gaping cut above his left eyebrow, which came from an
accidental head clash.
The cut has healed nicely, thanks to plastic surgery. Now it
is a fine and smooth scar, with Parker and trainer Kevin
Barry heartened by the surgeon's assurances that a punch is
unlikely to open it again.
A metaphorical rush of blood against a hard hitter from a
similar, Samoan, background in front of a hyped home crowd,
call it what you like, but Parker knows he can't afford to
disregard his tactics and stand toe to toe with an opponent
again, especially during his next challenge. Negotiations are
well under way for the 22-year-old to fight Andriy Rudenko, a
tough 30-year-old Ukrainian with an excellent 24-0 record.
"For me it's just sticking to the game plan and not brawling
any more," Parker said yesterday.
"He [Tatupu] came in wanting to brawl and I thought, 'what
the heck'. I didn't follow the game plan. I was happy with
the result but I know that in other fights I have to follow
the plan, be more patient, don't go mental.
"I'm happy I learned the lesson because if I did that in an
important fight, a title fight, it wouldn't be so good."
Trainer Barry said yesterday he felt the potential Rudenko
fight had come too early in Parker's short, albeit
undefeated, professional career, a sentiment he shared before
his charge fought 44-year-old Frans Botha, the most
high-profile of his seven victories.
Barry also expressed concern about Parker's loss of self
control against Tatupu, saying there is no guarantee it won't
"Who's to say we don't go over there against Rudenko, if the
fight gets made, and Rudenko gets under his skin? Or someone
says 'hey you can't stand there and trade [punches] with this
guy' and he goes 'really, watch me'. We have to be better
than that. We can't afford any more mistakes."
Parker, who sparred 18 rounds last week as he began his
preparations for the potential April 27 fight against
Rudenko, leaves Auckland with Barry for a training camp in
Las Vegas on Saturday.
Leapai, the 36-year-old Samoan who spent nine years in
Auckland before moving to Australia when he was 12, earned
his shot at Klitschko after beating the previously undefeated
Russian Denis Boytsov. He will fly the Samoa, New Zealand and
Australian flags before his fight and said he was determined
to display true Anzac spirit.
- By Patrick McKendry