Joseph Parker says he's in 'best shape' of his career ahead of Anthony Joshua showdown

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Parker underwent elbow surgery in December.

Joseph Parker is confident he will be in the “best shape” of his career when facing Anthony Joshua in their world heavyweight title unification bout after overcoming elbow injuries.

Undefeated World Boxing Organisation champion Parker will step into the ring against Joshua, the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association title-holder, at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium a week on Saturday.

Parker feels he will at last be able to fight at full capacity having struggled with a longstanding elbow injury before an operation in December.

“We tried to schedule in surgery numerous times, but (fight) opportunities came up so we pushed back, and the past two years we’ve been training and fighting below 100 percent,” said Parker, speaking at a work-out session in London on Friday.

“Since the surgery there’s been a lot of benefits,” added the New Zealander, who travelled to Manchester to beat Britain’s Hughie Fury in September.

“We’ve been training with no injuries; this is the best camp we’ve had for a long time, and that’s why we’re so confident in putting on a great display and a great fight,” Parker explained.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve been in. My face is a bit skinnier, and I’m also starting to see some abs come along.”

Parker’s trainer, Kevin Barry, was taken aback by the boxer’s progress since surgery.

“The pain Joe had to go through — how he was even able to achieve some of the successes he’s had is mind-boggling,” he said.

“The surgeon sat down when he looked at the initial damage and said, ‘How was he able to perform at an elite level?’.”

Promoter David Higgins urged the ringside judges not to be swayed by a home crowd and score the fight fairly, even though Parker’s previous fight in Britain ended in victory.

“We’re grateful to the British Boxing Board of Control, this time they’ve opted for a balanced panel,” said Higgins. “That means a neutral referee, from Italy, a neutral judge from the United States, one judge from the UK, and one judge from New Zealand.

“This fight is so big, and there’s so much scrutiny on the officials, they should know they won’t work again if they favour the home man, obviously.”

Meanwhile Parker accused Joshua of snubbing travelling media from New Zealand and Samoa by refusing to speak to them at a workout session on Wednesday.

He did, however, speak to other reporters and it was by no means certain Joshua had deliberately avoided taking questions from overseas journalists, although that did not stop Parker drawing a comparison with his own accommodating attitude to British media.

“It’s a little disrespectful because they’ve travelled a long way to come and see him, and they respect him, as a fighter and (for) what he’s achieved,” Parker said.

“We were in camp in Vegas, we had a lot of British media come over and we were very friendly.

“He (Joshua) should just be a bit more respectful in talking to everyone who was there. Hopefully in future he can make it better.”

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Manny Pacquiao announces Lucas Mattysse fight in June

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Manny Pacquiao is to fight Argentina’s World Boxing Association welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse in Malaysia on June 24, the Philippine ring legend has announced.

The 39-year-old will be co-promoting the bout after rejecting an offer to fight in Las Vegas on an undercard to his recent conqueror Jeff Horn, who will be facing Terence Crawford on April 14.

Pacquiao said he considers himself the “underdog” against the brawling Matthysse, 35, who has 39 wins — all but three of them via the short route — against four losses.

“This is going to be a tough fight. Matthysse is also a knockout artist. But I’m excited to fight and be a world champion again,” he said in a statement announcing the bout late Thursday.

“I’m the underdog in this fight but I’m used to it. It serves as a big motivation for me to train and fight hard to win the crown,” said Pacquiao, who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions.

“I like his aggressive fighting style. That’s what I want, to entertain the boxing fans,” said the elected Philippine senator, adding that the Argentine was “not a dirty fighter”.

The Filipino’s trainer Restituto Fernandez said he expects the Kuala Lumpur bout, co-staged by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, to be “a real brawl because Matthysse is an aggressive fighter”.

Pacquiao, winner of 59 bouts against seven losses and two draws, lost his World Boxing Organisation welterweight title to Australia’s Horn last year.

The Filipino southpaw, who has enjoyed a glittering, 23-year pro career, retired briefly in 2016 but made a comeback to retake his WBO title from Jessie Vargas just months later.

The last of his 38 knockout wins came more than eight years ago.

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Kell Brook eyes another world title after Sergey Rabchenko knockout

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Kell Brook has his sights set on another world title tilt after marking his light-middleweight debut with a stunning second-round knockout of Sergey Rabchenko at the Sheffield Arena.

Brook’s career had stalled after a fruitless jump to middleweight to challenge Gennady Golovkin in September 2016 while a drop back down to welterweight last May saw him lose his IBF crown to Errol Spence Jr.

But he drew a line under those twin defeats in emphatic style by ending the challenge of the rugged Rabchenko within five minutes to send a warning to the top tier of 154lb fighters.

He said: “I’m putting the champions on notice. I’m here and I felt good, anyone getting hit with those (punches) and it’s game over.

“I’m aiming for the stars. I’m going to go out and win another world title, you’re going to see me perform like this every time.”

A showdown with long-term rival Amir Khan, who is now under the same Matchroom promotional banner as Brook, has also been mooted in recent weeks.

Brook added: “I’ve got no message for him (except to) just enjoy his training and get his wins. That’s how me and him are going to happen, we’ve both got to keep winning and it’s going to naturally come together.”

Brook feels galvanised by the move to light-middleweight, having decided to go up a division following his much-publicised struggles to make the welterweight limit.

Kell Brook lands a right shot on Sergey Rabchenko

His initial foray proved spectacular against a fighter who had lost only twice in his previous 31 professional outings and who, Brook says, gave him some tough sparring sessions in the past.

But the Belarusian was unable to hit his stride against Brook, who, backed by a buoyant crowd in his home city, wasted little time settling into his stride behind a crisp jab.

The 31-year-old landed many thudding combinations in the opening round before stepping up his attack in the second, with a bruising right uppercut followed by a right to the temple that put Rabchenko on the mat.

Rabchenko was unsteady as he attempted to rise and was counted out just before referee Steve Gray called a halt to proceedings after one minute and 27 seconds of the second round.

Brook said: “I felt good once I got settled, the timing came and the uppercut set everything up and we finished the fight. Obviously I’ve been out and it’s good to get the first tick back and just get settled.

“I felt strong at the heavier weight. The weight’s a big thing, imagine taking another seven pounds off me!

“I just felt a lot healthier and when you’re getting older (trying to lose weight) takes it out of your legs and body, it’s like taking weight off a stone, there’s nothing to take off me.

“You can probably get away with it in your 20s but it’s so draining (now). It’s a big difference.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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