Joseph Parker needs a statement win over Razvan Cojanu as heavyweight division heats up
Joseph Parker is taking an attacking attitude into his first defence of the WBO world heavyweight title.
Parker puts his belt on the line against Razvan Cojanu in Manukau on Saturday night.
"The way I see it, I don't even have this title. I'm still hungry," Parker said, believing he needed to win the belt rather than defend it.
And winning is absolutely everything considering the buoyant state of the heavyweight division. But winning impressively is just as important.
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Parker is blocking out the distractions of the juicy deals that lie ahead on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.
But he can't hide from the hype that Anthony Joshua has created with his 11th round stoppage of Wladimir Klitschko in London last weekend to add the WBA and IBO belts to his IBF title.
Parker is on Joshua's radar and it would be a life-changing fight for the 25-year-old Kiwi.
Having the Cojanu fight beamed live into the UK where Parker sees his immediate future is a lifeline. But it does add some pressure.
Parker's title win over Andy Ruiz last December was also broadcasted live there but failed to convince the Brits of his credentials with his majority points decision.
They are still sceptical about the Kiwi's claims to the elite ranks of the glamour division. A poll on the Daily Mail website in Britain on Friday asked readers who they thought Joshua should fight next? More than 35,000 responded but only six per cent (1961 votes) went for Parker.
Tyson Fury was the preferred option, with the troubled Brit claiming 45 per cent of the vote. He was well ahead of American WBC champ Deontay Wilder (29 per cent), Klitschko (17 per cent) with Cuba's Luis Ortiz trailing with four per cent.
It's a measure of the job in front of Parker. This promotion has been a fiasco thanks to Hughie Fury's camp and there's only one way to get something out of it.
Parker needs to demolish Cojanu, the WBO No 14, to boost his profile and then weigh up suitable fights in Britain to further enhance his status or head to the US to try to steal Wilder's belt and make himself irresistible.
But first things first. There's a sizeable speed bump in front of Parker in the form of the 2.02m Cojanu.
"All I'm worried about now is getting in the ring and getting the job done. There are many offers in the US and the UK but those offers mean nothing if I don't win this fight," Parker said.
"Razvan is here ready to fight and take away the title that I have. But I'm going to keep it here, that's my plan," Parker said.
"A lot of people underestimate Raz because they haven't seen his fights. I've been training so hard for this fight and even though he knows my style, I'll change it up a bit for him," Parker added of Cojanu who has been a key sparring partner in two of his last three camps.
"We didn't have a lot of time to change what we were working on but with the team that I have, we trust that we can come up with a different game plan and that I can go into this fight and execute it to the best of my ability."
Parker's trainer Kevin Barry stressed the unique circumstances confronting his fighter and applauded his response.
"I don't know one other world champ that has had a fight cancelled and then within a space of two weeks would reschedule another opponent," Barry said.
"A lot of people will be looking at us right at this moment and going: 'I hope you guys know what the hell you are doing'."
Look for an aggressive Parker to try to march through Cojanu, much the way he did giant Russian Alexander Dimitrenko at the same venue last October when he produced an impressive third round TKO.
Barry warned it might not be quite that simple: "Razvan brings some unique challenges. He's similar in height but he's a lot bigger than Dimitrenko.
"I don't think we have fought anyone as big as this guy. There are some big guys out there at the moment, but this is the biggest physical specimen that we have fought in Joe's career."
And Cojanu has been grumpy, questioning the respect he's had from Parker's backers at Duco Events, considering his late dash to keep the promotion alive following the controversial withdrawal of mandatory challenger Hughie Fury because of a back injury.
"He looks pretty angry and fired up," Parker said. "I think anger is good, let's just see if he can control his anger in the ring."