Glynn Evans reveals all you need to know about the standout New Zealand heavyweight who contests the vacant WBO title against Mexico’s Andy Ruiz Jr in Auckland this Saturday.
BoxNation screen live from 8am.
This weekend the unbeaten Parker endeavours to become sports mad New Zealand’s first male boxing world champion for 126 years.
‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ was last decorated in January 1890 when Auckland’s ‘Torpedo’ Billy’ Murphy rallied from behind to stop ‘Belfast Spider’ Ike Weir in round 14 and nail the world featherweight title in San Francisco.. Alas he conceded his claim to Australia’s Young Griffo just nine months after, petulantly throwing off his gloves in round 15!
Granite chinned Samaon born heavyweight David ‘The Tuaminator’ Tua, an 1992 Olympic medallist in the NZ singlet, completed the full 12 round course in a world title tilt at Lennox Lewis in 2000 but copped a shellacking.
Cornish born ‘Ruby Bob’ Fitzsimmons, a three weight undisputed world champion in the late nineteenth centure, emigrated to Timaru on New Zealand’s South Island, aged nine, but predominantly conducted his ring affairs in the US.
NZ boxing has been All Black since, although Auckland lightweight Daniella Smith and Wellington super-bantam Gentiane Lupi both claimed women’s world titles.
Parker boasts a proud and strong Samaon heritage. In 2014 the village of Faleula bestowed upon him the honour of High Chief – his high chief name is Lapesolaaii La’auli and he holidays there every year. However, he was born in Auckland 24 years ago and raised in the city’s south side.
The eldest of three, his brother John is an unbeaten pro cruiserweight and he also has a sister Elizabeth. Last month, Joseph’s partner Laine Tavita gave birth to their first child, a daughter also called Elizabeth.
For the past three years he has lived in Henderson, Nevada (just outside Las Vegas) at the family home of his coach and compatriot Kevin Barry.
Away from the ring, Parker is a practising Mormon who worships at The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. He is also a proficient pianist.
At 6ft 4in tall, a chiselled 17 stone and blessed with a 76in wingspan, Parker possesses all the physical hardware required to flourish among the sport’s giants. His chin remains untested rather than unproven.
He has a lean and lithe frame, not dissimilar to a young Cassius Clay, and displays the natural athleticism that suggests he would prosper in whatever athletic discipline he embraced.
His speed and power both exceed the norm for the division and he is as likely to render you horizontal from a blizzard as from a bomb. Eighteen victims have failed to finish.
A clean living ‘gym rat’, Parker appears to possess a sound engine and flexible gear box. He is highly driven to fulfilling his goals.
The Back-up Boys
Regardless of application and ability, it’s hard to scale the summit if you’re riding solo.
To combat this, Parker has surrounded himself with a solid support network. Since his sixth fight he has been managed and schooled in Vegas by regarded Kiwi Kevin Barry, a 1984 Olympic light-heavyweight silver medallist. (He was infamously iced by Evander Holyfield after the ref had called ‘break’ leading to ‘The Real Deal’s’ disqualification).
The Antipodean prospect is promoted by Duco Events who recently aligned with Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation in the hope of opening up US markets. His fights are presently screened on HBO in the US and BoxNation in the UK.
With father Dempsey so called in honour of the heavyweight legend of the 1920s, young Joseph was always likely to gravitate towards the Noble Art.
He threw his first gloved punch at 11 and quickly evolved into a multiple national champion. In 2010, he won a bronze at the World Youth meet in Baku, Azerbaijan and, shortly after, made the final of the Youth Olympics in Singapore where he was pipped by Rio Olympic champion Tony Yoka from France.
Smokin’ Joe was only 18 when competing in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India where eventual silver medallist Tariq Abdul Haqq from Trinidad and Tobago edged him out on a count back in the quarters.
Olympic finalist Zhang Zhilei from China outhustled him at the 2011 World Seniors and, with his slate a highly credible 50-8, the 20 year old opted to punch from pay after a Tongan doused his 2012 Olympic dreams by upsetting him at the Oceania Qualifier in Canberra, Australia.
Despite his youth, Parker’s prodigious raw talent enabled him to move quickly after debuting in July 2012.
In just his sixth paid turn, he creamed South Africa’s quadruple world title challenger Frans Botha inside six minutes, then forced regarded US gatekeeper Brian Minto to tender the white flag after seven frames in fight number nine.
By the time he’d reached double figures, the thunder from Down Under had already showcased his wares twice to US audiences and once in Germany where he featured on the undercard of Wlad Klitschko’s obliteration of Alex Leipai in Oberhausen. Shortly after, ‘Dr Steel Hammer’ recruited Parker for a three week sparring tutorial in Florida.
Developmental duals with useful men like Sherman Williams (pts10), Jason Pettaway (co4), Bowie Tupou (co1), Kali Meehan (rsc3) and Jason Bergman (rsc8) followed, the latter an emotional exercise in his spiritual homeland of Samoa.
Having acquired 18 successive wins and seven minor or regional belts Parker was unleashed for a litmus test against Carlos Takam at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manakau City last May, with the victor earning the dubious ‘reward’ of a date with IBF champion Anthony Joshua.
The French-based Cameroonian – beaten just twice in 36 – came with a rep for being tough as teak and powered by long lasting batteries. However, joltin’ Joe comfortably negotiated the 12 round trip for the first time and skilfully boxed his way to a clear decision win.
Five months after, Parker endorsed his right to operate at elite level by pulverising 6ft 7in ex European champion Alex Dimitrenko (38-2) inside three frames. A fast improving body attack contributed to the carnage, though the finishing blow was clearly applied whilst the Ukrainian was gasping on his knees and might have brought a red card had the fight occurred anywhere other than Parker’s home city!
And so a whole nation waits ...and prays. The omens are strong. The bookmakers, the most astute of forecasters, enlist Parker at 7-2 on and his benefactors have secured home court, the 12,000 capacity Vector Arena in his native city.
Standing in his way is the portly looking but potent punching Ruiz Jr, a 27 year old Mexican-American who is unbeaten in 29. Nineteen early wins give credence to his ring handle of ‘The Destroyer’.
Styles should mesh to deliver a corker but Parker, one senses, has that extra dash of class and that should be sufficient to see him coronated.
Watch Parker v Ruiz live on BoxNation this Saturday morning at 8am.