By Matt Richens
Joseph Parker has no doubt Kevin Barry is the man to take him to No 1 and is adamant the Christchurch trainer has made him the boxer he is.
Parker, 22, is 10-0 as a professional and, speaking in Christchurch this week, said he owes it all to Barry.
Parker was a teenager when the word sensation was first used to describe him. He was the golden boy for New Zealand's 2010 Commonwealth Games boxing campaign in Delhi, but bowed out early.
Since then he has turned pro, fought some pushovers and slowly, but surely crept up the long boxing ladder.
He's had nine knockout wins and his stock continues to rise.
''I honestly believe I wouldn't have the power, the speed, the endurance or the boxing knowledge I have if it weren't for Kevin,'' Parker said.
''He's just been the best thing for my career. I wouldn't be the boxer I am if it weren't for the work I've done with Kevin.''
There are others Parker wants to give thanks to including his family, management and promoters, but Barry receives the best plaudits.
The pair have been together for 18 months and in that time Parker has developed in leaps and bounds as a fighter and making noise on the world scene.
He's now largely based in Barry's family home in Las Vegas.
''He's taken me in. I can't speak for Kevin, but I think it's because he believes in me and that support drives me on. I live with him and his family and, honestly, Kevin is like a second dad to me.''
Their relationship, Parker said, is more than that of a normal trainer and boxer.
Then, as if on cue, Parker receives a text from Barry who remained stateside.
''He's just checking in on me, making sure I'm looking after myself and not eating too much junk food. Being an Islander, if I just look at food I put on weight,'' Parker said.
What works well between the two is their mutual respect.
Parker is far cleverer and more aware of his ability and potential than when he and Barry first teamed up 18 months ago, but he's still a sponge.
He listens and is desperate for more knowledge, desperate to improve.
And Barry is developing the relationship as he goes too. As Parker's understanding improves and his thirst for knowledge grows, Barry is pushing him further.
''He doesn't just tell me what to do, he explains it and increases my understanding and I think because I understand it more and know what it's doing, I probably buy into it a bit more.''
The partnership has re-invigorated Barry too.
The 1984 Olympic silver medallist last year told The Press he was ready to give the training game away before Parker came along.
''I had been working at a high-class sports club and doing OK for myself and I was happy,'' he said.
''I'd had a couple of boxers and they'd done pretty well, very well actually. Then this opportunity with Joseph came along.''
Barry said he was somewhat reluctant at first. He'd already coached a leading Kiwi contender in David Tua and knew only too well the potential pitfalls as well as the requirements on his time.
He told Parker and promoters Duco that he'd take Parker on in a trial basis and if the South Aucklander ticked the right boxes, he'd make the relationship more permanent.
It didn't take long and Barry was convinced and the partnership seems only to be getting stronger.
Parker is desperate to fight in Christchurch as a present to Barry and said he would stay with the former St Bede's student as long as the trainer would have him.
''With what we've done together so far, the plan is definitely to stay with Kevin and have him take me to the top. He's knows what he's doing and what we're doing.''
Parker's mother likes him too and that's a big tick.
''And he's a perfectionist. He's a details man and I really like that. He wants me to fight the perfect fight. To the point where I get a little sad if I don't or I go away from our plan because I feel like I've let him down.
''And his passion for me to do better makes me strive to be better too. I used to be happy just winning, but now I know how important it is to not only win, but to learn my craft.
''He's world class, hopefully he makes me world class too.''