By Liam Napier
A gentle giant outside the ring, Alexander Dimitrenko is promising to be more than another stepping stone for Joseph Parker.
Dimitrenko, the 2.01m veteran who identifies with Russia and not Ukraine due to the conflict between the two Eastern European countries, made his first appearance in New Zealand on Wednesday ahead of the October 1 fight in Manukau.
Selected as the second-to-last training run on the road to a world title shot for Parker, Dimitrenko is out to belie his status.
Despite being ranked 50th to Parker's eighth - and fifth of German-based fighters behind the likes of Edmund Gerber, Manuel Charr, Christian Hammer and Erkan Teper - with independent BoxRec, Dimitrenko appeared relaxed and quietly confident about his prospects of causing a major upset.
The 34-year-old wasn't about to make any bold predictions, notably saying: "I can make a lot of loud statements about this fight but if you do that when it comes to the ring you can go in your pants so it's easier to handle it when it happens then and there. This is a problem for many of American fighters. They talk too much. I will let my fists do the talking in the ring."
Dimitrenko did, however, bristle when his boxing style was called slow. While he boasts an eight centimetre height and 18cm reach advantage, Parker's hand speed will be far superior.
"I am fast enough and those people can watch my fights. I'm not slow, I am fast too and I'm looking forward to winning this fight."
Like many before him, Dimitrenko claimed expectation would weigh heavily on Parker's shoulders, with his mandatory IBF title shot against Anthony Joshua next year on the line.
"There's no pressure on me specifically. Parker will have a lot more pressure. I have nothing to lose. Parker should be nervous not me."
There won't be any surprises in the way Dimitrenko's approach. He's not a noted power puncher and, thus, will be expected to try point his way to victory from the outside with his long limbs. He was reluctant to talk tactics, saying his biggest weapon was "quick thinking" but also claimed he had fought, and defeated, better opponents than Parker in his 38-2 career.
Dimitrenko singled out Luan Krasniqi (30-4-1,) Timo Hoffmann (40-9-2) and Albert Sosnowski (49-7-2), who was knocked out by Vitali Klitschko 2010.
"When I was fighting in Germany I've fought a lot of guys who were at a higher level at that point. This shouldn't be a problem.
"Parker didn't have a big achievement in his amateur career but professional boxing is a completely different ball game. At the moment he is one of the top five boxers in the world; he hasn't lost yet but he is a very young fighter and is not formed completely yet as a boxer."
Dimitrenko has only had two fights outside Germany but has boxed in-front of 20,000 people on a Klitschko undercard, and brushed off the challenges that come with fighting in a foreign country.
"It may be tough for somebody else but not for me. If you put a ring on the moon it's still a ring."
Dimitrenko's Croatian trainer, Ivan Filipovic, once guided a Croatian boxer to victory over Parker as an amateur.
"Professional fighting is different to amateur but some things are very useful and we will try to use them and control this fight," Filipovic said.
"It will be a very important first three rounds. If those pass as I expect it can be a long fight but if something happens it can be very soon.
"I hear what the team of Parker say but this will be a very difficult step for him. We have our plan and good possibilities here."