Parker Trainer Kevin Barry talks Hughie Fury Defence, Ruiz decision & Parker future
By Michael J Jones
NEXT MONTH IN Auckland, WBO world heavyweight champion Joseph Parker makes the first defence of his recently-acquired title against 20-0 British prospect Hughie Fury. The May 6th world title clash is a battle between young and unbeaten fighters who are both fast-approaching their respective primes.
The impressively-built Parker, 6'4 and some 245lbs, has impressed so far in his 22-0 (18) career and has already claimed some noteworthy scalps in style but didn't appear at his best last time out in winning the WBO belt with a majority decision over the previously-undefeated Andy Ruiz Jr.
Despite looking less then chiselled physically, co-challenger Ruiz Jr gave Parker all he could handle and many thought he might have even edged a close fight. At the end of twelve rounds however, two of the judges scored to Parker by two points making him a world heavyweight champion (third scored a draw).
While many believe the opportunity has come a shade too soon for the 22 year old Fury, Parker's trainer Kevin Barry is under no illusion of the threat proposed in his fighter's first defence.
“If we look at Hughie Fury, there's clearly many similarities to him and Joseph Parker” Kevin tells Livefight this week. “Hughie is young, has good skills and was a really great amateur. He's considered a prospect but really, Joseph was in that same position before he fought Andy Ruiz Jr so if you wind the clock back Fury is pretty much where Joseph was before his last fight.”
“Some have said (it may be too early for Fury), but I told Joe straight away that Fury has range, a unique set of skills and has plenty of moves plus awkwardness and this could be, stylistically, Joe's most difficult fight to date. We have great respect for Hughie and (his trainer and Father) Peter and know this will be a real test.”
Livefight raises the subject of Parker's last contest; often referred to as controversial. Mr Barry doesn't shy away from talking about the fight and openly admits his man wasn't at his best that night last December.
“This camp we're having now has been enjoyable and we're all feeling comfortable and positive ahead of the fight. Last time, it was probably the worst camp we've had and nobody wants to say that going into the most important fight of their career. The fight with Ruiz was put together in a hurry, camp didn't go the way we wanted and also Joe had some personal stuff going on.”
“Thank God we're back on track this time.”
As mentioned, Andy Ruiz Jr is no body beautiful but is clearly a fighter who is far better than his physical appearance suggests. Against Parker he displayed good movement for his size as well as a surprisingly-good work-rate for a 255lb (usually much higher) fighter. The New Zealander seemed to struggle with his distance and timing early on against a man who fought arguably the fight of his career.
“Andy Ruiz Jr was a man I knew well, I nearly became his trainer before I started working with Joe” reveals the Vegas-based trainer. “He came over to Auckland 29-0 and he's a very good fighter, fast hands and an incredible chin so I knew it was always going to be a difficult night for us. Andy doesn't help himself with his fluctuating weight and inactivity but there's no doubting his talent.”
“We had three judges from three different countries and I thought referee Tony Weeks did a great job in the fight. After eight rounds all three judges had Joe down by two points. So with the last quarter ahead of us we knew we had to finish strongly and dig deep. We took it one round at a time and Joe showed he was a real champion and showed a lot of heart.”
“I wasn't totally sure about the decision (before it was officially announced) but I felt Joe won those last four rounds and had done enough. Honestly, if it would have been called a draw we would have accepted it.”
“Joe wasn't at his best and we know that but it's a fight which could happen again at some stage.”
Has the former 1984 Olympic Silver medallist seen any notable change in his boxer since he became champion five months ago?
“If you look at many fighters who become champion, they usually get ten percent better for becoming champion and Joe is no different and I've already seen big changes in him. We got to the belt pretty quick (Parker turned pro less than five years ago) and Joe's confidence, mental approach and the way he conducts himself has changed and he loves being in the position of being a world champion.”
“We had an aggressive approach to Joe's development, we matched him tough and kept him very busy. People said we'd burn him out and we weren't doing things the right way but we showed our way worked as Joe became the WBO heavyweight champion of the world. Joe has been living here in Las Vegas with me for four years now so he's been spending eight months of every year here and the last three years he's boxed five times a year.”
“Joseph Parker is nowhere near the finished product. He's just 25-years-old and him and Hughie Fury are going to be around for years. Joe's a young man who has grown up in the pro heavyweight ranks and physically, mentally and spiritually, is improving fight by fight.”
“In another two years he's going to be a menacing, mean heavyweight who will be very hard to beat.”
Going back to the May 6th challenger Fury, the 6'6” Hughie has recently commentated on his rare skin condition which he has said badly hampered his recent performances. The ache-like condition left him almost quitting the ring as he was left lethargic and drained not only in fights but in the camps ahead of contests. The heavyweight has also said he believes he will be a sixty percent better fighter for Parker now his medical troubles are under control.
Does Kevin believe this was a genuine medical condition or has it been exaggerated as part of the famous Fury pre-fight mental chess-match?
“The Fury camp are very good at their mental games but we also take ours seriously and make a conscience effort to be confident and positive at all times. Boxing isn't just physical and our view is we are training and preparing for the best ever Hughie Fury. Peter Fury has done this before and deserves a huge amount of respect for that as he's defied the odds previously with Tyson and will be looking to do the same and take Joe's title from him.”
While most fight fans view Hughie as a solid prospect the man who is always prominent during heavyweight discussions is Linear ruler Tyson Fury. Disappointingly, the out-spoken Brit (Hughie's cousin) has been inactive since his career-best unanimous decision over Wladimir Klitschko some eighteen months ago. Despite several outside-the-ring problems and inactivity, the former champion is now in training for his comeback and is expected to make his belated ring return later this year.
Is that a fight the WBO champion would welcome in the future?
“Our rule is we don't look past any fight” reasons Barry wisely. “We install that in every camp to focus on the fight in hand and not what comes after...but it's blatantly obvious the winner of the fight between Joe and Hughie will have a lot of options.”
“You've got the winner of Anthony Joshua vs Klitchko, we've had Tony Bellew calling us out, we had a talk to WBC champion Deontay Wilder in Alabama after his last fight and we don't know what Tyson Fury is going to do but if he does come back we would love that fight.”
“Joseph Parker is fearless and will fight anyone, he's a student of the game and ambitious. When we fought Carlos Takam (a points win in May last year), I had already turned down that fight twice for Joe. Takam is one of the most avoided fighters out there and Joshua could have fought him but dodged him. Takam was beating Povetkin until he got caught late on but when we made the fight Joe was just like 'oh great I've wanted this fight for ages' there's no fear at all there.”
“Like I said we are not looking past Fury but Joe isn't just going to sit on the title he wants big fights, unification matches and whatever we can get. Joseph Parker knows the best fights bring the best out in him and he can't wait to get those kinds of fights.”
“Joe is the WBO champion and he has to become the champion of working out all the styles now and our job on May 6th is to make Hughie Fury as uncomfortable as possible. He likes to fight in a relaxed style and we have to make sure he doesn't get that. We'll be hitting him everywhere at any target available.”
“Since the Ruiz fight we've been working on a lot of different things and we can't wait to show people in this next fight.”
In the last few days, Cyclone Cook, one of the worst storms to ever hit New Zealand, has raged on causing multiple damage and chaos to homes, roads and airports but luckily team Parker flew out to Vegas to miss the carnage.
“I said camp had been superb but what luck missing the worst storm in NZ in decades.”
A storm is also brewing for May 6th at the Vector Arena, Auckland as two young talented fighters square off in a fascinating twelve round contest for the WBO heavyweight title.
Many thanks to Mr Kevin Barry for speaking to Livefight from Las Vegas. Interview with WBO champion Joseph Parker to follow shortly...