Joseph Parker's professional debut has been lost behind the bright lights, skimpy outfits and trash-talk attached to tomorrow's boxing bonanza in Auckland.
Outside of Shane Cameron's main-event clash with Monte Barrett, Parker's first pro fight – not the bimbo bikini sideshow – will be the centre of attention for genuine boxing pundits.
No doubt should linger about Parker's intentions to make a statement. The softly-spoken clean-cut South Aucklander doesn't crave the spotlight, or make outlandish statements. But his performance should do the talking. He is in the best shape of his life after linking with David Tua's former trainer, Lee Parore, a month ago.
After missing out on his Olympic dream this year, Parker made significant changes to his set-up. The 20-year-old now has two full-time trainers, a conditioner and nutritionist. Results have been immediate. He's shed 12kg in four-weeks and enhanced his power.
Parker's failure to qualify for the London Games exposed some home truths. He realised he was overweight. His training regime wasn't right. Fitness was below standard and that needed rectifying if he was going to forge a successful pro career.
"I used to be over-weight. I wasn't fit enough back then," Parker admits of his amateur days. "I'll show on Thursday that I'm a lot better than I was before."
To prepare for the increased workload of six rounds with sizeable Huntly school teacher Dean Gunsway, Parker has gone toe-to-toe with Cameron and Barrett and is expected to weigh-in around 105kg today after tipping the scales at 117kg in his last amateur fight.
Parore instigated a similar transformation when Tua demolished Cameron in 2008. Tua dropped more than 25kg in three months. His emphatic second-round knockout speaks for itself.
"People think if you drop the weight you will lose power, but Lee knew exactly what to do to increase the power," Parker said.
"I can move better and last longer. I've been sparring with Shane Cameron and Monte Barrett and that felt good. I'm throwing more, better punches than before."
Parore took Parker back to his roots, insisting he be fuelled by traditional Polynesian vegetable taro.
"That's who he is. That's his genetic makeup. Why would you take taro out of a Samoan boy's diet? It doesn't make sense. Even things like coconut milk and cream, we put those back."
Expect to see Parker mix up his combinations and work the body of Gunsway, who has had only three pro fights. Parore predicted Parker would display new-found strength, speed, movement and endurance.
"He's got to seize the moment and make the most of this opportunity," he said. "I hope he wins by KO. You've got to be able to bring that as a heavyweight. That's part of the package. No-one wants to see a heavyweight who can't knock people out."
- © Fairfax NZ News