Time for Joseph Parker to come of age
Three days before they meet in the ring, two boxers came together today.
In an up-market Auckland bar, they fielded press conference questions and stood for photographers' snapping lenses, fists raised.
They stood in the usual circus that surrounds top level bouts these days: two fighters on completely different career trajectories.
One is Joseph Parker. Let's call him The Kid.
Ask anyone who knows anything about boxing, and they'll tell you this 21-year-old is a real talent.
In his five pro fights so far each one's been won by knock-out. There's speed in his wrists, and a maturity to his game that hints that special things are ahead for the former South Auckland amateur.
When asked questions, The Kid speaks with a true Kiwi respect and gratefulness - "thank you everyone for coming to my press conference today."
He's just returned from two months in Las Vegas where long-time Kiwi boxing identity, and former David Tua manager, Kevin Barry has "transformed" him as a fighter.
Barry and Parker trained three times a day for a large percentage of the camp, with The Kid staying with the Sin City-based trainer during his down-time.
Barry told Fairfax Media on the weekend that he'd never met a young boxer with such a maturity and eagerness to learn.
"He's a sponge," Barry said.
"He just eats up everything I tell him. I've never met someone, at such an early stage of their career, so willing to learn and listen."
We're all familiar with Parker's opponent at West Auckland's Trusts Stadium on Thursday night.
Francois Botha. That out-spoken South African who fought Sonny Bill Williams. The White Buffalo.
In a sport filled with caricatures, Botha, 44, is one of the better ones going - at least in our part of the world.
The big South African, decked out in his trademark fake leopard skin shoes, made sure his presence was felt in the room.
"Here's the Buffalo," he bellowed. "Be afraid, Baby Joseph."
As soon as it was his chance to speak, without interruption, the Buffalo was at his best. Well, his third-person best.
"Mentally, the Buffalo is strong," he said.
"They [promoters Duco Events] have tried everything. They've tried everything to get the Buffalo to do this and that.
"They tried to give me wine, tequila. But let me tell you Buffalo is strong. Buffalo gets stronger."
Asked about his younger opponent, the Buffalo continued with chest-puffed-out arrogance: "Let me tell you something. When a fighter goes against a heavy bag, he looks like a million dollars.
"He's fast - boom, boom, boom. Once you put him in front of somebody, then it changes the whole story."
That won't happen on Thursday. The Kid should absolutely deal to The Buffalo. Sure, Botha has gone five rounds with Mike Tyson. Yea, he's been in the ring with Lennox Lewis. But he ain't half what he used to be. His mouth has far more wallop than his fists these days.
Even though his career is just beginning, Parker shouldn't really be fighting Botha. He has more class than his big opponent, in every form of what it means to be a boxer.
Yet he is - and the best thing he can do for himself on Thursday night is completely deck the Buffalo. That way, the Kid will take another step in the direction he must head.
That way, the Buffalo takes a step back to where he should be heading.