The winner takes it all: Joshua vs Parker presser
With four title belts on the line, Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker is a heavyweight showdown with plenty of intrigue surrounding it. Boxing Monthly's Paul Zanon was in attendance at today's press conference to launch the 31 March contest...
Venue: The (very plush) Dorchester Hotel, Central London.
Event: Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker press conference
Stats: Parker: 24-0 (18 KOs); Joshua: 20-0 (20 KOs)
Start time: 11am...ish.
While New Zealander Parker arrived early to mingle with journalists, Joshua was caught up in that man-made city phenomenon, better known as traffic. After arriving at 11:35am with a healthy entourage in tow, the Watford man took to his chair, sporting his three championship belts in front of him, while eying up Parker’s WBO strap to the left of him.
Make what you will of the fighters, their records, their stances, their styles, and, most importantly, their fighting assets, but one thing is undeniable - namely this is a fight which will gain justified attention. The fact is that two unbeaten world heavyweight champions are meeting on 31 March in Cardiff, with four belts (WBA 'super', IBF, IBO and WBO) going home with the victor. It's a fight that will give the fans exactly what they want - one champion with all the belts. Well almost... Throw Deontay Wilder’s WBC title into the mix and possibly Manuel Charr's Diet version of the WBA strap too, not forgetting Tyson Fury's lineal title and then you would have the complete box set!
With Team Parker eager to start the proceedings, Matchroom promoter, Eddie Hearn introduced the fighters and their respective trainers (Rob McCracken and Kevin Barry). The softly spoken, somewhat shy Parker was the first of the two fighters to take to the microphone.
After explaining his relief that the terms of the contract had been hammered out to the mutual benefit of both fighters and signatures were now firmly inked, Parker expressed his excitement to start his training camp in Las Vegas tomorrow.
However, it wasn’t all smiles and friendliness from the 6'3" inch tall Kiwi. Further to informing his audience that this would be his hardest training camp to date, he added: “I look forward to putting on a great performance, hopefully catch him on the chin and knock him out.”
As for Joshua, after reflecting on his somewhat lacklustre performance against Carlos Takam, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist claimed: “It’s kind of about making history now.”
Touching upon Parker’s reference to working harder than ever before for this particular camp, Joshua added, “We’re all blessed with the ability to work hard. There’s no doubt about that, but one thing that separates myself [from other fighters], is that I mix intelligence with hard work. So not only am I going to be in peak physical condition, [but] I’m making sure my mind’s in the right place as well.”
Next up was Parker’s outspoken promoter, David Higgins, who started by praising Team Joshua and his achievements, his strengths … before, of course, focusing on "the chinks in Anthony Joshua’s armour".
"Joshua has allegedly been dropped a few times.” Higgins added, “Joseph Parker has never been dropped. Joseph’s a bit quicker on hand speed, definitely got a better chin and, I would add, definitely mentally tougher.”
A bold statement, which it didn’t take long for Joshua to respond to.
Adamant that Higgins has been flagging his past knockdowns as a marketing strategy, the British colossus addressed the issue head on: “The three times I have been hurt, or dropped, was in the European Championships, when [Rob] McCracken knows I was actually banned from the GB Team because I was still getting in trouble.
"So I went back to Watford and I stopped boxing. Then two weeks before that European Championship, I was called up to represent the country. I was very unfit, but I didn’t get dropped. I was stopped. When your tank is empty, it’s hard to perform. The second time was with David Price. I came out of a police cell the day I went up to training. I’m not going to use that as an excuse, but David Price is a puncher and I had a lack of experience.
"And then it was Klitschko. You know what all those times taught me? It will take more than a human to stop me from where I’m destined to be.”
Joshua referred to the ‘other’ knockdowns Higgins has referred to “fake news”.
Kevin Barry was next to be introduced to the room of eagerly attentive journalists. After giving the customary polite praise to the opposing team, he explained his view that although Joshua has a considerable height, weight, reach and power advantage, “Joe’s got good hand speed, footwork, very good stamina. That’s what makes this such an exciting fight.”
Barry continued by adding: “I need this to be his [Parker's] greatest performance. If he can show the public and show Anthony Joshua on March 31, what I see in the gym when he’s at his best, he’s a very, very hard guy to beat.”
Rob McCracken then chipped in, referring to Joshua's ‘Fake News’ accusation along the way.
“The reality of talking about Anthony Joshua and actually getting into a ring with him is very different," he said. "The Klitschko fight was two or three fights early at the time when we took it, but that’s the way Josh is. He was two or three years early when we took him to the Olympics and the world championships, which he won and he stepped up to the challenge. He’s different to most fighters because he’ll do it in half the time it takes most fighters to do it, or get to the top of the potential.”
McCracken added. “He’ll prepare diligently for Parker and take him deadly serious. Parker’s a good fighter and knows what he’s doing. He’s fought some decent opponents, but he’s not fought Anthony Joshua.”
Attempting to transcend any mentions of knockdowns and trash talk, Joshua then added. “I’m not really into it as such [trash talk]. It’s an opportunity for both camps. I’d fight him in the car park for free.
“World champion to world champion, I look at it like this. In terms of mental strength, it’s all good. I’ve defeated champions, faced Olympic champions. So what Parker will see and what you [Higgins] says he is, I feel he’ll be looking at the mirror, because across the ring will be someone just like him. Another world champion. Another undefeated champion who’s mentally tough, with speed, that can take a punch.
"There’s two types of people who take a punch. One who gets put down and stays down ... but you would hate to fight the one who gets put down and gets up and keeps on coming. That’s who he’s dealing with.”
The safe money would say that Joshua is the favourite for this fight. However, what many fail to remember is that Parker is no stranger to travelling to the UK and is already prepared mentally for a hostile crowd. He’s an awkward opponent and it's worth remembering that his last opponent (Hughie Fury) was about the same height as Joshua and possessed more movement, yet found it difficult to find the range to connect with Parker.
How will Joshua bridge that gap? One thing’s for sure – if the British boxer lands, the New Zealander’s chin will be put to its most severe test to date. Looking at Joshua’s previous form, he always seems to find a way of reaching his target and, with that said, I’d say he will stop Parker between rounds three and seven. Failing that, Parker may well make a later run and secure a points victory. Let’s see!
With both fighters and trainers having been extremely respectful and courteous to their counterparts, Parker signed the presser off with a fitting comment. “May the best champion win!”