8 Dec 2016

Parker's 'heavy security team' keeping close watch

1:25 pm on 8 December 2016

Joseph Parker will be the first New Zealand fighter to contend the WBO world heavyweight boxing title this Saturday.

In New Zealand's first ever hosting of the championship bout, Parker, 24, will fight Mexican Andy Ruiz, 27, for the title at Auckland's Vector Arena.

Ruiz, is unbeaten in 29 fights with 19 knockouts while Parker has an unbeaten run of 21 fights with 18 knockouts.

Joseph Parker

Joseph Parker Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The atmosphere in South Auckland this week is reminiscent of when local fighter David Tua took on three-time heavyweight world champion Canadian boxer Lennox Lewis for the WBC, IBF and IBO titles in 2002.

Both Joseph and David started their careers in South Auckland so it is no surprise that many attending a local Zumba class in Mangere's town centre were overflowing with excitement in the lead up to this Saturday's fight.

A mid-day Zumba class kicks off in Mangere’s town centre with participants excited for the fight this weekend.

A mid-day Zumba class kicks off in Mangere’s town centre with participants excited for the fight this weekend. Photo: RNZ/Indira Stewart

Magngere Maori Warden Georgina Tahana said she can't wait for the match.

"Hey! go South Auckland 'cause [we're] so proud of ya! So proud of the two men that we've had to represent South Auckland - just from South Auckland,"

"Yeah you rock Joseph Parker!"

Joseph Parker is the popular pick for this group in South Auckland who predict he will win by knock out in round 7.

Joseph Parker is the popular pick for this group in South Auckland who predict he will win by knock out in round 7. Photo: RNZ/Indira Stewart

Many in the community shared similar predictions for the fight.

"I think Joseph Parker will win, second round, knockout! second round!" said one man.

"I'd love to see him knock that guy out, so yeah, knock out! probably round eight!" said another.

"Yes, he is good looking and I know he's going to win for sure." said Deborah Faiva.

Her comment was echoed by Ms Tahana's "Hell yeah! A knockout!"

And another knockout predicted by Jimmy Mesui and Eddy Esau: "Parker all day. Knockout round seven!"

Deborah Faiva and her friend are backing Joseph Parker to win.

Deborah Faiva and her friend are backing Joseph Parker to win. Photo: RNZ/Indira Stewart

Back at the Pullman hotel in the city, Parker's mother Sala and his father Dempsey are far from the streets of Mangere where Joseph first began his training.

Sala said her son's journey is evidence of the old proverb 'it takes a village to raise a child'.

"This is everybody's contribution in their growing up. Everybody supporting them, cheering them up,

"So it takes a whole world if not a community to raise these boys and I'm so grateful for the support out there."

Joseph Parker's father Dempsey Parker (left) was named after former US heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey. Joseph's mother Sala Parker is on the right.

Joseph Parker's father Dempsey Parker (left) was named after former US heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey. Joseph's mother Sala Parker is on the right. Photo: RNZ/Indira Stewart

Both his mother Sala and his father Dempsey said they had butterflies, but were looking forward to the fight.

They jokingly call themselves the 'Heavy Security team' for both Joseph and his younger brother John who is also set to contend in the opening fight on Saturday's card.

At the Pullman hotel their room sits directly opposite the rooms of both their sons Joseph and John, where she keeps a watchful eye - making make sure both boys are focussed and in bed on time.

"Wherever he fights we have to travel to ensure that he's prepared himself well and also to support - I guess that's the main focus.

"What we've experienced so far is they need to see our face, that we're there for them. That's another huge motivation for the boys."

Joseph and John Parker prepare for training.

Joseph and John Parker prepare for training. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The parents have played a huge part in Parker's career. Two years ago Sala resigned from her job as a social worker to help support Parker.

Dempsey said he has actively taken part in their training since they first started fighting.

"I took them to run on the road while I follow them with the car," he explained

"Well, just to guard them from the dogs," laughed Sala.

"So he had to follow in a vehicle with his long stick and once he see the dogs he will just stop the car, get out with the stick and chase them away and get back into the vehicle again and off they run."

To Dempsey, nutrition has always been key.

"From amateur [stage] I have to boil this much eggs in the pot because I was thinking of giving them a lot of protein.

"There was no protein powder for them so I have to cook every morning."

The WBO heavyweight title belt that Joseph Parker hopes to wear.

The WBO heavyweight title belt that Joseph Parker hopes to wear. Photo: Photosport

While this week has brought a busy schedule for the family, Dempsey said cooking for his boys remains his focus.

"I boil chicken, no fats. We make sure everything is right this week," he said

"We cook from home and bring it to the hotel," explained Sala.

"So every morning he goes off to work and he will finish work, go home and cook for the boys and bring it here."

Early in Parker's career an agreement was made with his trainer, Kevin Barry, that Parker would only train or fight between Monday and Saturday.

Whatever the outcome of Saturday's title fight, the next day will be like all Sundays for the Parker family with Sala and Dempsey adding that the family will go home, pray, and thank God.

They had two words of advice for both their sons, said Dempsey: "Concentrate. Discipline,".

"You know, after doing all the things that I'm supposed to do like fasting and praying, then I feel good. And I leave the rest to the heavenly father."

This story was brought to you in partnership with Pacific Media Network (PMN) with contributed reporting from PMN Sports Reporter Levi Matautia-Morgan.

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