By Liam Napier
Embrace his natural tools and Joseph Parker's transition from gentleman to fearsome heavyweight should take another significant step tonight.
On his home patch in Manukau, South Auckland, everything seems heavily weighted in Parker's favour. Fight like a big man and Brian Minto could find him difficult to stop.
With a height, reach and seven kilogram weight advantage, Parker plans to control the distance with his jab, dictate terms through speed and gain Minto's respect from the opening bell with power.
"He's a little man so I'm going to treat him like the little man he is; push him around and box him from the outside and be smart," Parker said.
Any wonder the 22-year-old's younger brother wagered $50 on a third round knockout. It's this confidence that resonates from Parker's camp. As he grows in stature after eight undefeated pro wins so, too, does his ability to command the mind games regularly associated with boxing.
"I know he's worried about me, even though he's trying to hype himself up," Parker said. "I'm a lot leaner and meaner. Minto is going to find out just how mean."
The mobile and aggressive Minto - who beat Shane Cameron into submission with the help of some sly elbows and head-butts last December - has been backed into a corner throughout his lonesome five-week New Zealand training camp. How the American veteran responds will be crucial.
Disputes about gloves and testosterone levels have been manufactured to unsettle the visitor - but a serious blow to his nose in sparring last week was a genuine setback that could be ruthlessly exposed.
"It's going to be a huge target," Parker's trainer, Kevin Barry, said. "We're going to be beating on the nose early. It might be broken after the fight."
Barry is another trump card, having been an integral figure in Minto's victory over Cameron. In the build-up to that upset Barry observed Minto's inner workings, only to harness that inside knowledge to plot his downfall.
"It's a definite advantage," Barry said. "I've felt his power; I know how he moves, but more than anything else I know the way he thinks. I know Joseph is mentally a lot stronger fighter."
Yet another strange twist that only seems possible in this at times murky sport.
"It was a good experience for me to be in the same camp as Minto when he was preparing for Shane Cameron; to see the weaknesses and strengths he brings," Parker added.
For all that, Minto (39-7) backs his experience to handle Parker's onslaught and eventually get inside to rattle the young challenger. He's well accustomed to countering his physical deficiencies. The 39-year-old blue collar battler isn't easily flustered and brushes aside concerns about his visibly crooked nose.
Despite Parker's cardio-tailored training, which saw him lose 6kg, he is yet to be pushed past seven rounds and Minto will be more dangerous the later the fight progresses.
"I might put some money on myself to win. A lot of people won money on me last time. They didn't think I'd beat Shane Cameron," Minto said.