By Duncan Johnstone
Joseph Parker's trainer Kevin Barry is fuming that his boxer won't be allowed to wear his preferred gloves for the heavyweight title fight with American brawler Brian Minto.
In a bizarre twist to the July 5 south Auckland showdown, Minto has gained a clause in his fight contract barring the controversial Everlast MX gloves that give an advantage to a heavy hitter.
Their padding is a blend of horse hair and foam as opposed to the more traditional moulded foam.
With Parker's notorious hand speed and increasing power, the gloves are seen as complementing his style. He wore them in his last two knockout victories, over Afa Tatupu to win the New Zealand heavyweight belt and against Brazilian Marcelo Nascimento to win the vacant PABA belt.
Yet Parker's promoters have denied their prize fighter one of his assets, giving Minto some added cushion for a bout where plenty of punches are expected to be landed.
Barry isn't happy.
"Apparently, unbeknown to me and without any consultation to me, Minto had a clause written into his contract that we would not be allowed to wear the MX gloves. It has been taken off the table, which annoys me a lot," Barry said from Las Vegas, where Parker has started his preparations.
"Joseph really likes them. He finds them very comfortable, very flexible, there is good wrist support for him. It's a glove that suits him, it's a glove that I like him to wear. They are a glove that is designed for optimal power transfer.
"I talked to Brian Minto about them and he says they are dangerous. They are only dangerous if you are getting hit by them. Obviously Minto plans on being hit by Joe a bit."
The gloves caused a storm in the buildup to Floyd Mayweather's successful WBC welterweight title defence against Marcos Maidana recently. The Argentinian fighter wanted to wear a custom-made pair of blue MX gloves to match his country's flag.
Mayweather was worried about their construction - claiming there was no padding in the knuckles of those gloves - and threatened not to fight right up to the eve of the Las Vegas bout. Eventually the fight went ahead with Maidana wearing stock MX gloves.
Duco boss Dean Lonergan said safety had come into their thinking but so had a bit of give and take as they persuaded Minto to come to New Zealand and put his WBO Oriental belt on the line.
"From our point of view it's a safety issue. Yes, we are Joe's promoters but we have to look after the safety of both fighters," Lonergan said.
"And we have to be fair to both fighters. If we want to have people come down here (to fight) and they think it's a one-sided affair and they don't get a fair shake of the stick, we'd never get guys to come and fight Joe.
"Kevin always wants everything his way whenever he can to get any small advantage. But the reality is that doesn't always happen."
Lonergan said there would now be "three or four choices of gloves" that the two camps would have to choose from, although he admitted it was likely to be an ongoing issue in the leadup to the fight.
Barry scoffed at the safety concerns around the MX gloves.
"These gloves are sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. If they are approved by the reputedly No 1 commission in the world that runs most of the big fights . . . if there is anything wrong with the glove, there is no way they would approve them," Barry said.
"This is the home of lawsuits. If there was any functional part of that glove that was dangerous, it would leave everyone very vulnerable. I can't understand what all the fuss is about."
Barry said there was "risk and reward" when using the heavy MX gloves but that was a gamble he was prepared to take with Parker moving forward, despite his young charge being cut in his last two outings.
"Yes, that's always the way with these gloves. We saw in the last fight when Joe got hit really hard in the ear in the sixth round . . . maybe it wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been wearing puncher's gloves.
"But that's the gamble you take. You have to believe in your athlete. If I wasn't backing Joe, I'd put him in the glove with the most protection I could find. I'm confident that we will get to Minto before he gets to us.
"We plan on hitting Minto a lot. But he's going to have a bit more protection now."