By Duncan Johnstone
Joseph Parker has a blossoming friendship with Larry Holmes after the former world champion turned up unexpectedly at the Kiwi's hotel on the eve of his heavyweight fight to pay him "the ultimate compliment".
Parker and New Zealand light-heavyweight Robbie Berridge, along with their entourages, gained an audience with Holmes earlier in the week at his bar on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
But it was Holmes who initiated the return meeting and he has confirmed he will be ringside tomorrow when Parker takes on American Keith Thompson and Berridge battles Russian Vasily Lepikhim at the Sands Casino and Resort.
Holmes arrived unannounced at the complex last night and invited Parker and his trainer Kevin Barry to join him and his wife for dinner.
Holmes, undisputed champion from 1978-85, said that after meeting Parker he had gone home and viewed all of the 22-year-old New Zealander's fights that were available on YouTube.
"He can really fight," was Holmes' appraisal of Parker to Barry, "and he's got a good jab".
"Coming from a boxer who I regard as having the best jab in the business, it was the ultimate compliment," Barry said, adding that Holmes had again indicated he was keen to visit New Zealand.
"I think we've got a friend for life there now."
When fans in the casino were asking Holmes for photographs and autographs, he told them Parker was "the guy you should be asking".
The Kiwis are thrilled to have Holmes in their corner and Parker is eager to put on a good performance against Thompson in a fight that will be televised live in the United States and New Zealand (11.30am NZT).
The fighters weighed in at the venue today with the Kiwis and their opponents looking in good physical condition.
Parker tipped the scales at 103.6kg with Thompson 99.7kg.
Berridge, who has been on a tight diet over the past week in the United States, got to his required mark, weighing in at 78.6kg.
Lepikhim was closer to the 79kg limit at 78.9kg.
Berridge planned a small celebration but is fully focused as he defends his WBO Oriental and WBC Asian belts against the tall Russian champion.
"I'm happy as. There's a burger joint in the casino so I'll go and spend 20 bucks on the gambling machines and eat a burger," he smiled.
"I feel good. It's here now and I just want to get the fight going."
Berridge said he wasn't fazed by Lepikhim's height.
"He's got sparrow legs on him ... hopefully I'll bowl him over."