Boxing: Scar from Tatupu fight a permanent reminder for Parker

Joseph Parker
Joseph Parker
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 happen again.

"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 of APNZ