Rising Kiwi heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker has trumpeted his recent two-month Las Vegas training camp as the "best experience" of his young career - less than a week out from his bout with South African Francois Botha.
Parker arrived back in New Zealand late on Friday evening from Nevada, where he has been training with David Tua's former manager, Kevin Barry.
During the training period, when Parker lived with the Vegas-based Barry and his family, the hard-hitting South Aucklander fought fellow Kiwi Brice Ritani-Coe over six rounds. Parker was beaming about the experience when Sunday News spoke to him in Auckland yesterday, saying it "opened his eyes" to top-level boxing.
"It's the best training that I've got, boxing-wise," Parker said.
"It's the best sparring I've ever done, too. Sparring with guys who are on a world level gave me a real feel of where I was.
"It's been really important - I'm just so grateful I was able to go there. It has opened my eyes to see more of boxing.
"I was comfortable at home, training and staying around family, but going away helped me mentally. Being away from family, it's hard at times, but you've just got to dig deep. It's really opened my eyes to a whole new level of boxing - and life." Barry said he was impressed with Parker's progress as a fighter over the past two weeks. However, he said he saw the training fight against Ritani-Coe as a crucial test for the youngster - one he would pass with flying colours. Ritani-Coe is of a similar build to Botha, and mimicked some of Botha's techniques during their training bout.
"We've accomplished a lot in eight weeks," Barry said. "It was always going to be a very big job from day one. We had a lot to achieve.
"The really important thing for me was getting that fight after the first four weeks to see the changes I'd made to his style, if he could actually take that to a real fight situation.
"He came through superbly well. And now . . . we've taken it up another notch since the Ritani-Coe fight.
"I'm really confident of a really strong performance against Botha. I think he is a very special young man." Barry described Parker as a trainer's dream, talking up the 21-year-old's maturity and eagerness to learn.
"When I tell him to go out and do something, he'll go straight out and do it," the 1988 Olympic silver boxing medallist said.
Parker fights Botha at The Trusts Arena in Auckland on Thursday.
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