Richard Tutaki isn't buying into the portrayal of him being the villain in his fight with rising heavyweight boxing star Joseph Parker.
The 34-year-old was yesterday confirmed to fight Parker in the professional bout on the Fight For Life card in Auckland on December 15.
It's another chance for a place in the spotlight for Tutaki, who was controversially withdrawn from his New Zealand title fight with Sonny Bill Williams last February.
Tutaki has had to prepare against the backdrop of a court appearance in Manukau today, when he faces two charges of breaching community work, and one of escaping from police custody.
He said that wasn't a distraction and blamed the media for the unwanted attention he had received, although the promoters appear happy to try to cash in on that.
"You can see it how you want . . . good kid, bad kid. I see myself as a good kid anyway. It's media slander that classed me as a bad kid. If you know me as I know me, I'm not a bad person," Tutaki said.
Promoters Duco Events said it would monitor the court case today and react accordingly.
"We'd like to think there's no risk. But at the end of the day that's in the third party's hands and we'll just deal with that when it comes up. Right now we are set on Richard Tutaki taking on Joseph Parker," Duco's Dean Lonergan said.
Tutaki is desperate to make the most of this opportunity.
"It's a big occasion. I was really disappointed about Sonny Bill, [but] this has put me back on target for putting on a good fight.
"Sonny Bill was a big one for me. No-one knows how disappointed I was . . . it was shattering really for my family and mainly myself," Tutaki said.
With 140 rounds in 43 fights (20 wins, 22 losses, 1 draw), Tutaki represents a big step up for the 20-year-old Parker, who has needed only three rounds to dispose of Dean Garmonsway and Terry Tuteru since turning pro earlier this year.
Tutaki has been in the ring with some decent fighters including Shane Cameron, transplanted American Chauncy Welliver and Australian champ Bob Mirovic, losing all of those fights by varying means.
But he looked in good shape yesterday, claiming he had shed about 6kg since losing a brutal fight to Afa Tatupu in Auckland last month. Tutaki should weigh around 110kg, with Parker about 5kg lighter.
Tutaki felt he had the experience and punch for the occasion, and promised an aggressive approach.
"I'm someone who goes forward. I'll take the fight to him. The fitter I am, the more I'll bring it," he said.
Parker acknowledged the challenge in front of him.
"Richard has a lot of experience and has been in the ring with some big names. I'm just excited to get the fight," Parker said.
"The public will see it as my first real test. I'm just trying to push the pressure away and concentrate on what I have to do.
"I'll come ready. I've been training real hard."
- © Fairfax NZ News