By Duncan Johnstone
A victory won't be enough for Joseph Parker in Germany tomorrow. The rising New Zealand heavyweight boxer needs to make a statement with it.
Gifted the unexpected chance of appearing on the undercard of a world title fight, Parker has to seize the moment to showcase his undoubted skills to a massive global audience that will include fight fans and, more importantly, some of sport's biggest powerbrokers.
All eyes will be on Wladimir Klitschko defending his four belts against Samoa-born Australian Alex Leapai but with Parker one of just three televised bouts, he will get a decent share of the spotlight.
And the 22-year-old declared himself ready to claim some fame in Oberhausen.
''I'm feeling relaxed. But I'm feeling strong and my fitness is good. I've done a lot of work coming into this fight because I know how important it is,'' Parker said as he went through his final hitout last night.
''I'm just really excited about this opportunity and I want to make the most of it. I've gone 110 per cent with my training because I know how important this is.''
Parker's veteran trainer Kevin Barry was keen to put some perspective on the occasion presented to his young charge.
''This is a massive opportunity for us. This is a chance for the boxing world to see Joseph Parker,'' Barry said.
''I've been around the game long enough to know this is a very rare opportunity we have here.
''I can't remember a seven-fight boxer being on a card of this magnitude. The fight was going right throughout Europe, now it's going through North America as well.
''It's major and I want Joseph to display what I see every day. If he can do that, then we will have a lot of people afterwards saying they want to see Joseph again.
''That's the impact I'm looking for here. We need to make a statement, not just get a win.''
There is also another juicy incentive for Parker. The WBA's Pan-Asian interim heavyweight title is on the line and a win would elevate him to No 15 on that credible organisation's rankings.
Parker has the goods to carry out this assignment. Barry believes Parker has added significant strength to his game since his last fight six months ago. The long layoff had been used effectively.
Parker has been particularly busy in the sparring ring, doing 112 rounds in the lead up to this fight and working on improving his armoury, notably his overhand right.
It was the weapon that destroyed Frans Botha last year but, by all accounts, it has gone to another level now as Parker continues to add power to his trademark speed.
And he's had to make some late adjustments which could add to the spectacle tomorrow.
A change in opponent also means a change in approach.
Originally pitted against veteran Sherman Williams, the plan was to take a cautious approach and get in some invaluable rounds against a durable warrior.
But with Williams pulling out and sulking in the Bahamas, Parker now takes on a younger, taller and less experienced fighter in Brazilian Marcelo Luiz Nascimento. Suddenly the focus shifts to a demolition job.
His handlers won't say so publicly, but privately they'd like to see Nascimento finished off well inside the 10 rounds.
The Kiwis are taking no risks with this fight either. It's Parker's first fight since splitting his eyebrow courtesy of an Afa Tatupu head butt before he knocked out the Samoan last October.
Barry has used his connections to have Jacob ''Stitch'' Duran, the legendary American cut man, in his corner. Duran will also be working with his regular client Klitschko.
Barry is taking no chances. While he is confident the scar won't be opened by a punch, there are concerns it could be vulnerable to an elbow or another head butt.
Tags: Joseph Parker