In just over a week, Joseph Parker will fight for the first time since his defeat at the hands of Joe Joyce, a brutal first stoppage loss.
Kiwi Parker’s opponent for the heavyweight clash at the Manchester Arena on Sunday, January 21 (NZT) is Englishman Jack Massey.
Massey, 29, is moving up a division from cruiserweight and represents a somewhat curious choice for Parker given his modest record and profile.
Still, Parker is taking no chances. In an interview with 1News, Parker has revealed that after suffering from illness before the Joyce fight – which he believes robbed him of energy at the very least – his current routine is limited to training, sleeping and eating at his Morecambe base.
“I’m not going out much,” he says. “I’m not going out [due to] the possibility of getting germs and getting sick. There’s a touch of what [former trainer] Kevin [Barry] used to do; hand sanitizer and gloves and knuckles instead of shaking hands - just being careful and enjoying camp."
He knows that nothing but a convincing victory will do against Massey, a fighter with a 20-1 professional record (he has never been stopped).
If Parker, now 30-3, looks good in beating Massey then bigger fights will open up. Parker wants to fight three more times this year and one of his next opponents may be American Michael Hunter, a former cruiserweight.
In September, Parker, down several times against Joyce and with a cut over his right eye, fought with character and may have won the first round but appeared tired from then on – not to mention outgunned against a remarkably resilient opponent.
The manner of his defeat and sportsmanship afterwards helped burnish his reputation – particularly in the United Kingdom – but he confirmed suggestions he wasn’t feeling well leading into it.
“We had the best camp and I’m not making any excuses but two weeks before the fight I got sick,” Parker says.
“Usually I can go 12 rounds easy and not be gassed, but after one round I was gassed. On the day of the fight I gave it my best effort and it wasn’t good enough. Joyce was the better man on the day.
“I took some good shots and credit to Joyce he’s one hell of a fighter – very tough – and he took a lot of shots himself but gave a lot back. I know I looked bruised up and quite injured after the fight but I healed well. I’m lucky on that side of things.
“I had a good time with the family and while I was healing I travelled around enjoying Fiji, Samoa, time in New Zealand. I was training back home and keeping in shape but there was no real purpose behind it so my wife said ‘hey, you need to get back fighting again’.”
The bruising defeat to Joyce prompted suggestions in some areas for Parker to retire but the Kiwi is carving out a popular following in the UK.
It would be fair to say he’s in rebuild mode now – hence a scheduled 10-round fight against a man who has never competed outside of Great Britain – but he’s lost none of his drive.
Asked about Massey, Parker said: “We were looking at the likes of Dave Allen and Robert Helenius, but [promoter] Boxxer and Sky wanted to make this fight happen because Jack Massey was begging for a big fight, he wanted to fight in front of his home crowd but also I was struggling to lock in a fight.”
Parker added when asked whether he would be disappointed if he doesn’t stop Massey: “You want to stop every opponent and look good doing it. I’ve had great training and sparring. I’m not going to put any pressure on myself to look sensational and get him out of there. I’m just going to enjoy it. I know what I can do.
“I’m expected to go in there and smash him because he’s not a heavyweight. I’m not comparing him to [Oleksandr] Usyk or [Evander] Holyfield, cruiserweights who came up to heavyweight, or saying he’s anything like them, but cruiserweights can come up and… interrupt the division. I’m not taking it lightly.”
Parker’s camp has prevented him from sharing Christmas and his recent birthday with his young family (he turned 31 on Monday).
It is a sacrifice that will only be worthwhile if he wins well.
“It would be nice to get a good win over Jack Massey, and Michael Hunter has been calling out my name. Maybe I could fight him in March or April. Maybe three fights and I could be back in the top six or top five but I have to look good. There’s no point fighting and winning on points and being boring.
“I’m 31, I’ve been in this game for more than 10 years now. I feel like a veteran. It’s a tough game but I feel like I have more to give.”