Joseph Parker has already endeared himself to British boxing fans with his humble attitude and willingness to travel to the challengers backyard.
He returns to the U.K. this Saturday to face WBC Silver champion Dillian Whyte, live on Sky Sports Box Office from London’s O2 Arena… but who is Joseph Parker?
The 26-year-old former WBO Heavyweight champion hails from Auckland in New Zealand of Samoan descent. He grew up watching and admiring the heavyweight pugilist David Tua with his father, Dempsey Parker, named after heavyweight legend Jack Dempsey.
In 2014, the village of Faleula granted him the honour of high chief, along with the Samoan matai name Lapesolaaii La’auli – which is announced during each one of his ring entrances. Parker discussed in a recent interview with Boxing Social the strong links to his Samoan heritage, in which respect for his elders is strongly ingrained into his upbringing.
In a nod to his New Zealand heritage – the country in which he credits for giving him and his family the opportunity at a better life – Parker entered the ring to face Anthony Joshua shortly after a performance the Haka: the famous war dance associated with the New Zealand Rugby Union team.
Parker credits his father Dempsey with being a key factor for his interest in boxing. Growing up watching a heavyweight dominated by the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield andd Lennox Lewis, Parker says he was encouraged to join the gym by his boxing-mad dad who – according to Parker – was unable to box himself due to a leg injury suffered in early life.
After a successful amateur career in which he narrowly missed out on a place at the London 2012 Olympic games, Parker turned professional in July of 2012. After a relatively quiet start to his paid career, Parker’s first appearance on a significant card came with a knockout win over Marcelo Nascimento on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko’s World heavyweight title defence against Alex Leapai in April 2014
Impressing fans of the sport worldwide with his fast hands and combination punching, Parker would rattle off eighteen consecutive victories before meeting future Anthony Joshua opponent and perennial heavyweight contender Carlos Takam in May 2016. Despite surviving some scary moments in the middle rounds, Parker would cling on to claim the unanimous decision victory and manoeuvred himself into position to challenge for the WBO World heavyweight title against American Andy Ruiz Jr.
In a closely contested bout, Parker would capture the WBO crown with a majority decision, becoming the first fighter of Samoan origin to become World heavyweight champion. However, following the victory, his momentum would slow somewhat: eking out a decision win over Hughie Fury before labouring to a unanimous decision victory over former sparring partner Razvan Cojanu – both in forgettable fights.
Following a series of protracted negotiations, Parker would seal a deal to face then WBA/IBF World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in his next outing. After a tempestuous build-up between the two camps, the bout did not live up to expectations, with Parker forced on to the back foot for large sections of the contest behind a string lead jab from Joshua. The performance, and a failure to close the distance, was branded as “cowardly” by his upcoming opponent, Dillian Whyte.
Despite a less than impressive defeat to Anthony Joshua, Parker did manage to display his hand speed and tidy foot work and is promising a better, more active performance than he managed in Cardiff. Although the bout was marred by poor refereeing from Italian Giuseppe Quartarone, Parker readily admits to failing to perform.
The bout against Whyte will not only offer him a chance to put in a better showing, but also a shot at redemption; with the winner of the bout a possible future opponent for Joshua at Wembley Stadium on April 13th.
Having fought in five different countries over the course of his career-to-date – and twice previously in the U.K. – Parker has proven to be a man not afraid to fight away from home. Tackling Whyte in his home city of London at The O2 Arena is sure to be no different.
Article by: Will Lott
Follow Will on Twitter at: @WillLott27