News March 2018

Kevin Barry talks AJ vs Parker Unification, leaves Parker clue and questions Joshua stamina


By Michael J Jones

Kevin Barry

ON MARCH 31st in Cardiff, heavyweight champions' Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker clash in the first heavyweight unification fight in seven years. Joshua will thus put his IBF, IBO and WBA Super titles on the line against fellow unbeaten Joseph Parker who currently holds the WBO strap. The match promises to be electrifying as both men are big, athletic, young heavyweights who have a combined record of 44-0 with 38 knock-outs.

The fight is part of a heavyweight rejuvenation in 2018 following WBC champion Deontay Wilder’s explosive stoppage of Luiz Ortiz with Dillian Whyte set to slug it out with Aussie bruiser Lucas Browne this weekend. There’s also a certain rematch in May between Tony Bellew and David Haye which could be another cracking fight like their first encounter.

While Watford’s Joshua emerged with credit from 2017 following a dynamic come-from-behind KO of long-time champion Wladimir Klitschko and a work-man like TKO of tough French-man Carlos Takam, Parker’s opening two defences of his WBO title drew less acclaim. The New Zealander had to contend with late substitute Razvan Cojanu last May following the late withdrawal of Hughie Fury. The decent Cojanu fiddled his way to the final bell to be beaten unanimously but it was original foe Fury who Parker would make his second defence against in Manchester a few months later.

The Fury match proved an awkward night for the WBO ruler who appeared to win a frustrating contest clearly against a negative opponent before taking the spoils by a majority decision. Although criticism has been levelled at Parker for the above performances it’s worth noting that Cojanu was a late sub’ who had sparred the champion prior to his world title defeat. Hughie Fury was a very rangy and awkward opponent who had a style that was never going to make Parker look his best.

Both were thus solid victories in testing situations as Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry acknowledges when talking to Livefight this week.

“We didn’t have a great last year and didn’t get to show what we could have but there’s an interesting story which will come out soon to explain a lot about what has been happening with Joseph Parker” the 58 year old coach tells Livefight. “You can’t look at those last two fights because, as cliché in boxing as it is, styles do make fights and the Anthony Joshua fight is a totally different proposition for Joseph Parker.”

“This has been our best camp so far, it’s been very relaxed and there’s a lot of confidence and excitement about this fight. We have always prepared well for any fight for Joseph Parker but ,for this one, there’s been even more focus and we know this is a big challenge which will bring out the very best of (Joseph Parker).”

On paper, there seems little between the 28 year old Joshua and Parker. Both were stand-out amateurs before each made their names as talented pro contenders, both men impressed the boxing world on their way to capturing their respective world titles.

The 6’4” Parker was clearly matched a lot harder than AJ when turning pro in July 2012. Just a handful of fights into his pro campaign, Parker was thrown in with the aging, but still durable, former champion Frans Botha. The tough opposition was maintained through the future champion’s heavyweight apprenticeship when overcoming hardened veterans such as Brian Minto, Sherman Williams and Carlos Takam. Parker in fact fought five times in three consecutive years from 2014 to 2016 to keep a very busy schedule.

Some will opine that Joshua beat Takam (the only mutual opponent of the two rivals), easier than Parker who won a unanimous decision over the same man two years ago. However, Takam was a late replacement in the Joshua fight (for the injured Kubrat Pulev) and was stopped prematurely in the contest last October. The challenger was not floored or staggered but was stopped controversially on his feet in the tenth round.

I point out that Joshua has proven his stamina in his last two contests when posting late stoppages in the eleventh and tenth rounds (vs Klitschko and Takam) respectively but straight-talking Kevin strongly disagrees with the notion.

“Listen, if anyone thinks Joshua doesn’t gas in fights hasn’t done their research…in fact I’d go as far to say they hadn’t done any research at all. Joshua gassed against Klitschko, then he gassed against Takam. Joseph Parker has just completed three straight twelve round fights and has no such issues (with stamina). Many people have commented that Joseph Parker’s best chance, in terms of tactics, is to drag Joshua into the fight’s second half, take him into the deep water and exploit those stamina issues.”

“You say this is Parker’s biggest ever fight but it’s both mens' biggest fight” continues Barry. “People rave about Joshua’s power but, if you were to analyse that, he usually has to hit an opponent with five or six heavy punches to get that knock-out. I’ve never seen Joseph Parker hit with two punches consecutively let alone five, so Joshua will find it very difficult to make an impression on (Parker). Don’t get me wrong, we know Parker’s chin will be tested in this fight but it will be very difficult for Joshua to unload like he has in the past.”

“I sat down with (Sky Sports head of boxing) Adam Smith for an hour yesterday, and we both said this was an excellent fight and clash of styles and can only possibly turn out to be a very exciting fight between two young, skilful heavyweight champions. Both like to throw punches and I think this will be a very good and crowd-pleasing fight.”

“Joseph Parker is in peak condition, there’s been no injuries or issues. We’ve had a fantastic camp and, health-wise, Joseph Parker is looking and feeling very good.”

The Joseph Parker team are well known in boxing circles for not looking beyond the next fight but Livefight can’t help asking the question; with so much going on in the heavyweight division at present what may be on the horizon should Parker prevail on March 31st?

“Our short-term future is to get the job done on March 31st, then we have a rematch clause which means after we beat Joshua, we’ll very likely fight him again. We are very aware that the winner of this fight has a lot of options. There’s a lot of much-needed excitement coming back to the heavyweight division which was started by Deontay Wilder’s victory over Luis Ortiz and that momentum can continue through all of this year.”

Final word on the big unification bout from Mr Barry?

“Team Joseph Parker knows this is a big task we have against Anthony Joshua, we are coming into this fight with a solid game-plan and a huge amount of confidence. This is a contest which has been on our sights for a very long time and it will be an amazing fight which will be a great one for the fans.”

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