By Bryce Wilson
After his points decision loss at the hands of Anthony Joshua earlier in the year it may have been a reasonable expectation of many fight fans to see former WBO Heavyweight champion Joseph Parker ease back into contention rather than take on a dangerous assignment. We’ve seen it many times before when a fighter takes their first defeat, an inevitable diet of two or three tune-up fights, rake up some wins and then another serious run takes place. It seems Team Parker have chosen a different route, looking to jump right back into the title contention mix whilst taking on another Brit, the teak tough Dillian Whyte. As BoxingScene caught up with Parker’s head trainer Kevin Barry to glean his insights it seems the word ‘redemption’ is foremost in his mind.
When it comes down to whom Joseph Parker would face next the choice by all accounts boiled down to the experienced (yet relatively unexciting) American Bryant Jennings or the more thrilling and explosive Dillian Whyte. Ultimately it was the ranking of Whyte along with the opportunity to feature in another high profile and financially lucrative fight that won the day as Barry explains.
“One of the problems with the Jennings fight was that the deal had begun to change on a daily basis. When the opportunity arose with Dillian Whyte we looked at both options and the business side of it was so much better in the UK. Then there were the rankings of course and the chance for redemption was too good to pass up.”
Redemption is a word that Barry will return to periodically over the course of our conversation and with it comes the sense that he and Parker are keen to return to the UK and show the fans there what Parker can really do. Facing an all-action fighter like Dillian Whyte would go a long way to making up for the disappointment of their last outing.
I mention to Kevin that Dillian Whyte seems like the type of fighter that is willing to take a punch in order to throw one of his own. It’s an assessment that he doesn’t disagree with, “this guy is very strong, and he comes to fight. He’s a very physical guy with good respectable power and he likes to engage which we view as perfect for us.”
As we discuss what Joseph Parker needs to do better in this fight I ask Kevin how important he feels it is for Parker to spend more of the fight boxing off the front foot.
“Against a guy like Dillian Whyte where Joe has about half an inch of height on him, Dillian has a couple of inches in reach, I think stylistically it will be more natural for Joe to get on the front foot. I see them fighting a lot in the middle zone and it’s a fight where Joe has to throw a lot of punches in order to break this guy down and be almost surgeon-like in this fight.”
We move onto the subject of refereeing, something that both Parker and Joshua’s camp acknowledged as being problematic in their unification fight. Without wanting to make excuses Barry admits that the officiating was a disappointment.
“We really didn’t have to say much after the fight as everyone else was saying it for us. Even the UK media admitted it was an embarrassment and I don’t think Eddie (Hearn) was that satisfied either. I believe the British Boxing Board are really under a spotlight to get it right this time. We have it in the contract that we mutually have to agree on the referee. Hopefully this time we get a better result for all parties, this will most likely be a very physical fight and we need a referee who can handle that.”
Moving off the issues of refereeing Barry steers us back to a topic still clearly on his mind, “listen I’m sure you can hear in speaking to Joe just how motivated he is for this fight and this is his chance for redemption and this chance for redemption has come very quickly. This is what makes it a great fight for us.”
‘Redemption,’ that word again. It seems in many ways the lure of the UK, a chance to fight another top British heavyweight and a chance to right the wrongs of their previous effort lies foremost in Kevin Barry’s thoughts.
I wonder whether this opportunity clashes with the inconvenience that they will only have a short window of time to prepare for a fighter of Whyte’s stature. Barry concedes that it is a challenge, “yes there are a couple of things, first let’s start with the good. When Joe turned up to camp for the Joshua fight he was weighing 120kgs. This time around he has arrived in camp at 110kgs. That automatically makes my life a lot easier. That is a major plus for us. Now for the Joshua fight we had 11 weeks preparation, while this time around Joe flew from New Zealand to Britain and then straight out from there to me in Las Vegas. It was already a short camp and we lost the first week through jetlag and Joe just trying to get his feet back under himself. A seven-week camp combined with 36 hours of flying in such a brief period of time isn’t ideal so we’re in a situation where we need to make every day a winner. Joe is very aware of the uphill battle if he was to lose this fight, yet he is also aware that he has an amazing opportunity to turn this around and get redemption in one fight, which is what is fuelling him in this camp."
Although it is a shorter camp I wonder what it is that Barry would like to see improved upon in order to get the right result. While some changes are needed Barry feels it needs to be more tweaks rather than wholesale ones.
“With the Joshua fight Joe trained really hard, we got him in at the right weight. His defence was better than in previous fights, his movement was terrific, but it was the offence that let us down. It was the offence that got us to the title, and we both know that for this fight we still need the movement, but we need it to be a little more refined against Dillian Whyte and we need more output, more punches. Joseph has the quicker hands and we really need to see that in this fight.”
Moving on from Barry’s next assignment with Joseph Parker it would be remiss of me not to question him as to who he thinks will win the mega unification fight (should it ever happen) between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, his answer is unequivocal.
“Anyone who has listened to me in the past will know I’ve always picked Wilder in that fight. I like him because of his unpredictability, I like him because of his one punch power. He could lose the first 3 or 4 rounds of the fight, which he does time and time again and then one punch will end it. In the fight against Ortiz he earned more respect from the fans than any other time in his career. He would be a trainer’s nightmare to prepare for because you can’t predict where those punches are coming from and to be honest I’m not sure Deontay Wilder knows either.”
As Kevin Barry has been in the game a long time I ask him for his take on why Wilder isn’t more of a household name. Barry is at a loss to explain why, “for the life of me I can’t figure it out, especially if you add to the mix that he has Shelley Finkel, Lou DiBella and Al Haymon in his corner, three of the biggest power brokers in the sport, the guy should be a household name in America. I can’t understand why he’s not. He speaks well, and he does the absolute number one thing we love to see in heavyweight boxing and that’s knocking guys out cold.”
Without looking too far down the path, with a win I ask Kevin how far out it will be before Joseph Parker can earn another title shot.
“Eddie Hearn has made no secret of his desire to put Dillian Whyte back in again with Joshua, well with a win over Dillian maybe Eddie might replace that rematch with Joe instead. Either way the winner of this fight will be in a tremendous position to challenge for a title.”
What makes this fight so intriguing is that both combatants have a lot to lose and a lot to gain. For the winner truly comes the spoils, a high-profile win and another step closer to a lucrative world title fight. For the loser it’s back to the pack and a long journey towards the heady heights at the top of the division. Joseph Parker is desperate to show there is more to his game than defence and movement while Dillian Whyte would love nothing more than to add a truly world class scalp to his resume and prove how much he has learned since his loss to Anthony Joshua.
The stakes are about as high as you can get for both men at this stage in their careers and you get the feeling that if Kevin Barry had his way this fight would be promoted simply and succinctly as ‘Redemption.’ Seems like a fitting word to me.