Joseph Parker promises statement performance in New Zealand farewell fight
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Joseph Parker is adopting that adage for his farewell fight to New Zealand.
Parker will give up 13kg to Razvan Cojanu in the first defence of his WBO title in Auckland on Saturday. Premonitions of the big Romanian toppling are not difficult to evoke.
The Kiwi champion weighed in at 111.5kg, slightly lighter (400 grams) than his last fight against Andy Ruiz Jnr when he was a career-heaviest, while Cojanu tipped the scales at 124.6kg on Friday night.
The explosion of the heavyweight division, particularly in the lucrative UK market after Anthony Joshua's stunning 11th round knockout of Wladimir Klitschko last weekend, means Parker is all but certain to take his talents offshore after this fight, provided he secures victory as he is heavily favoured to do against the 2.02m Cojanu, his former sparring partner.
Parker admitted the fact this would be his last fight in New Zealand for the foreseeable future added a layer of emotion to the occasion.
"I'll probably use the atmosphere of the crowd to take it all in and use it as energy," he said. "We love fighting in New Zealand; we love the support but it's going to be our farewell fight and we're going to make it a good one."
Parker, unbeaten in 22 fights, is expected to be slightly tentative early, but felt he could use Cojanu's weight to his advantage, and will no doubt look to the target the body to create openings up top.
"He's heavy and I think he's going to try use his size. He's a big guy - a lot bigger than me so he will try impose himself. My goal is to stick to the game-plan which is all about speed, angles and movement.
"For me it's about taking my time, picking the shots and when we see the opening we'll take it with both hands.
"The weight is good. I feel like I am sitting down on my punches and throwing hard and fast so I'm looking forward to putting on that display tomorrow night. I'm taking this fight very seriously and I'm going out there with the mindset that I don't have the title."
Hughie Fury's withdrawal two weeks out with a dubious back injury caused major disruptions but Parker was making no excuses, rather promising to deliver a definitive performance that would allow the next stage of his career to take off.
"Everything that we've been through is behind us now. It's always important every fight to make a statement. We're going to go out there and make a statement for ourselves. There's a lot of people that are expecting things from us, but we have our own expectations. If we focus on what we want to do everything will fall into place.
"This is probably our last fight in New Zealand for a long time so we want to say goodbye."
Trainer Kevin Barry predicted Parker would showcase faster movement than ever.
"The first few rounds in this fight we will have to be very disciplined," Barry said. "We've got a game-plan that we revised after the Hughie Fury pull out and I feel Joe will eventually chop this guy down.
"It will culminate a great four years of the progress and development of a young prospect who was a young exciting amateur. We've moulded him very well as a team.
"It's great for us to defend the title - as it was to win it in New Zealand - but obviously our future lies overseas."
Once again, though, Barry warned Cojanu would not die wondering.
"This is Razvan's Superbowl - this is his big opportunity. That's what makes the fight so dangerous and why we prepared so well. Joe is in tremendous shape and he's very excited to be defending his title at home."
Cojanu, 16-2, has sparred over 80 rounds with Parker and, in what would be an unlikely underdog triumph, believes he can shock the champion.
"I'm going to hit him 100 per cent better than I did in sparring," he said. "This is my dream come true."