Analysis: The most impressive thing about Parker's win? His body

Statement made, said Joseph Parker, after he outclassed Faiga Opelu in just over 90 seconds last night.

But, what was it exactly? That he is a world-class heavyweight? We knew that already.

That he can be devastating when he throws dozens of punches in combinations usually only seen in lighter weight classes? We knew that, too.

Or was it that when he prepares properly (and has a bit of luck avoiding injury and illness), that as a former world champion he can still be a force in the division? We're probably getting close to it here.

The most impressive thing about Parker’s performance at Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena last night when he scored almost at will to drop Opelu halfway through the first round for his first knockout victory in just over three years was his physical condition.

Joseph Parker goes on the attack against Faiga Opelu in Melbourne.

This was a fight he was always going to win, and presumably by stoppage, but sometimes expectations and performances don't always align with Parker, and that is why he found himself fighting a journeyman in Melbourne on a Wednesday night.

His body told the story. Parker was the lightest he has been for a fight in five years – close to the shape in which he went 12 rounds with Anthony Joshua on a cold night under the roof in Cardiff when he lost his WBO heavyweight world title.

American George Lockhart - a nutritionist/trainer who was with Parker for his entire camp for the first time – helped with the physical transformation which was presumably the result of a mental one.

Parker hasn’t always prepared so well. The stories of him partying days before fights early in his professional career are legion, and so are those about his over-training; after a full day of training under previous coach Kevin Barry in Las Vegas he would sometimes do press ups in his bedroom in a bid to look better at the weigh-in.

Natural talent allowed him to overcome those mistakes but as a 31-year-old father of four daughters on the final stretch of his boxing career it appears he is getting closer to knowing what it takes to get the best out of himself – and that is to prepare like an elite heavyweight.

The referee stops the fight after Parker floors Opelu with a barrage of punches.

Opelu, possibly just inside the top five-ranked active Australian heavyweights, was probably the perfect opponent because the Aussie-Samoan’s best chance of a victory was with a surprise power punch.

There was no way he could outbox Parker so he had to stand and trade with one of the better combination punchers in the heavyweight division.

Not surprisingly, for a 29-year-old who was stopped by journeyman Lucas Browne two years ago, it didn’t end well for him.

A common criticism of Parker over the latter part of an enigmatic career spanning 35 professional fights is that he doesn’t have a ruthless streak in the ring.

He looked flat against pumped-up cruiserweight Jack Massey in January – Parker’s previous fight which he won by decision - and exhausted when beaten by Joe Joyce late last year after being affected by illness on the eve of the bout.

For whatever reason he wouldn’t pull the trigger in his split decision victory over Derek Chisora two years ago in their first fight (he was far better in the second) and before that his lacklustre performance against fellow Kiwi Junior Fa in Auckland led to him parting ways with Barry.

The lack of ruthlessness is up for discussion - he has some devastating knockouts among his tally of 22 – and it may be more accurate to say a lack of ruthlessness outside the ring is the bigger issue because he hasn't always had full faith in his body.

Whatever, he now appears fit for purpose: to fulfil his potential as one of the most naturally talented heavyweights of his generation.

As his mate Tyson Fury said ringside afterwards – Parker is back on the map. The only way is up if he keeps following it.


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