By Keith Idec
Trainer Kevin Barry believes Joseph Parker poses a greater threat to Anthony Joshua than Wladimir Klitschko presented nearly 11 months ago.
Klitschko, after all, was 41 when he faced Joshua at a sold-out Wembley Stadium in London. The long-reigning heavyweight champion also hadn’t fought in the 17 months since losing his titles to Tyson Fury before boxing the much younger knockout artist from England.
The 26-year-old Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) is two years younger than Joshua and the WBO champion hasn’t been beaten as a professional.
The New Zealand native obviously hasn’t accomplished anything close to what Klitschko achieved, but Barry is confident his fighter will upset Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) in their heavyweight title unification match March 31 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales (Sky Sports Box Office; Showtime).
“As we know, there’s no secret about it – this is the biggest test that Joe’s had in front of him,” Barry said during a recent conference call. “But I also believe this is the biggest test that Anthony Joshua’s had in front of him. We are expecting a much better Anthony Joshua than the one that fought Klitschko.
“I think there’s still a lot of improvement in him, as well as there’s a lot of improvement left in Joe. So we’re anticipating that the styles of both these guys are going to make for a real fan-friendly fight and a very exciting fight.”
Joshua, 28, wholeheartedly disagrees with Barry.
The IBF/IBO/WBA champion considers Klitschko the toughest opponent he has agreed to fight since he turned pro 4½ years ago. Ukraine’s Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs) came back from a fifth-round knockdown to drop Joshua in the sixth round, but was floored twice more and stopped during the 11th round of their unforgettable battle April 29.
“Wladimir was a phenomenal champion,” Joshua said as part of his conference call. “I just think people didn’t give him the credit. Remember, he hasn’t got like a name that a lot of the Western fans can resonate with. It’s not like an Adam Clark. It was Wladimir Klitschko. His first name wasn’t English, you know? And people didn’t really buy into it.
“He was dominating. He was a great champion – 10 years on top. Phenomenal. What did he have, 69 fights, 64 wins? That’s phenomenal. So I’m fighting someone that’s 24-0, and everything I learned from that fight [against Klitschko] was a blessing and it led me on to be confident ahead of the fight with Joseph Parker. So I’m dealing with a different beast. Parker still [poses] a threat, but he hasn’t got half of the experience that Wladimir had.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.