By John J. Raspanti
Talk is cheap, actions speak louder. Well, usually.
During his six-year professional boxing career, WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker has never been much of a rabble rouser. He’s the quiet and unassuming type, allowing his fists to do his talking.
That all changed a few months ago when Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) started campaigning for a fight against IBF, WBA and IBO champion Anthony Joshua. Joshua appeared amused at first, with a look on his face that seemed to say, “What’s going on with this guy? Is he serious?”
Parker was. His target of disdain was something he’ll be aiming for on March 31 when the big heavyweights meet at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
"All we have said is that Joshua has a glass chin," Parker said The Daily Telegraph. "We know it, he knows it, everybody knows it, they just don’t talk about it. We saw him get dropped by Wladimir Klitschko but he still had the heart to get up and finish the fight – I’ll give him that – but if I catch him and hurt him I’m not going to give him the chance to recover.”
Parker’s promoter, David Higgins, went even further—stating that Joshua gets knocked out routinely.
"Joshua has a glass jaw - he’s been flattened in nearly every training camp. Parker has never been knocked down," Higgins said.
The chatty Higgins wasn’t done.
"I think Joseph Parker has won the first round, which is the mental battle,” Higgins told I NEWS. “Joshua’s saying some strange things in the media.
He’s rattled, he’s not used to it.”
Has he? Not really.
If anything, he’s surprised by the comments of Parker and Higgins.
"Parker, I don’t know, it’s unpredictable, because from a fighting perspective, I know I can beat him,” said Joshua during an interview on Sky Sports last month. “But he’s now trying to challenge me mentally, the things he’s saying, the way he’s acting, this is out of character.
"So I have to reassess Parker. I don’t get where he’s got this lease of confidence, I just don’t get it,” added Parker.
Parker has scored 18 knockouts in his 24 victories. To say boxing is in his blood is something of an understatement for the 26-year-old who first landed his stinging jab before he hit kindergarten.
At the age of 3, he was popping his tiny knuckles into the palm of his father, Dempsey, who happened to be named after legendary heavyweight champion, Jack Dempsey.
Parker turned professional in 2012, after a short amateur career highlighted by winning gold at the China Open the year before. He knocked out nine of his first 10 opponents, showing steady improvement. His first real test was last year when he faced former WBO and NABO champion, Kali Meehan. Parker stopped the bigger Meehan in three brutal rounds.
In 2016, he squared off against tough guy, Carlos Takam winner of 33 of 35 bouts. Parker had to know he was in deep in the very first stanza when Takam countered his jabs with heavy right-hands. Parker found his bearings as the fight progressed, boxing and banging enough to win a close decision.
Since the Takam victory, something has happened to Parker. He’s looked stagnant. The steady improvement he once showed, has stopped. Victories over Soloman Haumono, Alexander Dimitrenko, Andy Ruiz Jr, Razvan Cojanu, and Hughie Fury, were hardly impressive.
Maybe he needs a challenge.
He’ll get it this month against the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Joshua, who has knocked out all of his 20 opponents. He iced Charles Martin in round two to win the IBF heavyweight title in 2016.
Joshua’s last bout was an 10th round stoppage of the aforementioned Takam. He dominated the fight, winning every round, but did appear gassed before the match was stopped. Stamina has become something of an issue with Joshua. And to some degree, but not to the extreme that Parker makes it, his chin. He was wobbled by Dillian Whyte in 2015 and knocked down hard by Wladimir Klitschko. He got up and knocked out Klitschko in round 11—a testament to his moxie.
The Klitschko fight had all the classic components that makes boxing so compelling and fascinating.
The young man, with only 19 fights under his belt, would be taking on the former champion, who had held the heavyweight championship for over 10 years. The two had sparred a few years before. The older fighter took the younger man under his wing, mentoring him.
Nobody was sure what to expect on fight night. After four rounds the match was even. A fire fight broke out in round five. Joshua went after Klitschko like a man possessed. A number of blows sent the former champion stumbling to the canvas.
The bout appeared over, but Klitschko, showing championship heart, was up at six. He calmly looked over at Joshua—who tried to end the fight.
But the cagey Klistchko stayed out of range, even hurting an exhausted Joshua with a hook near the end of the round.
A minute into round six, Klitschko exploded a bomb off Joshua’s temple. The pride of Britain crumpled to the canvas. He got up and wobbled.
Joshua still looked shaky in round seven. Klistchko was staffing him with jabs and right hands. Joshua needed his second win. Badly. It came at the end of round seven, when he found Klitschko’s body with a wicked hook.
Klitschko popped his heavy jab in round 10-while Joshua continued to attack to the body and head. A long over hand right connected. Could the tide be turning again?
Joshua connected with a straight right hand in round 11 that buckled Klitschko’s knees. Klitschko tried to move to stay out of danger, but with less than two minutes to go in the stanza, Joshua caught him with a wicked uppercut.Seconds later, a number of blows sent Klitschko to the canvas for the second time.
Klitschko got up once again, but this time looked hurt. A hard right knocked him into the ropes. Joshua landed another uppercut—followed by left that sent Klitschko falling to the floor like a huge tree. Klitschko hauled himself up. He gazed at Joshua as the referee counted, like a man waiting for the grim reaper to lower the blade.
Joshua wasted no time. He forced Klitschko to the ropes and let his hands go. After one more right hand connected off Klitschko’s head, referee David Fields waved the fight off.
The two warriors embraced warmly after the match, having delivered arguably the best heavyweight fight in the last 20 years.
Joshua had taken up boxing at the relatively late age of 18. He compiled an amateur record of 40 wins against 3 losses. He captured the Gold medal at the Olympic Games in the super heavyweight division in 2012. He turned pro a year later.
Joshua is big and strong, with an uncanny cool in the ring. He’s charismatic and very likeable. It’s no wonder he’s the UK’s most popular athlete right now. It took all of seven minutes to sell 90,000 tickets for his fight against Parker.
What makes him intriguing as a fighter is his flaws. Parker has them as well. Joshua looks like the better fighter right now, but looks don’t always make a difference. Styles do. And ability.
Parker talked the talk and got the big fight against Joshua. Will he regret it?
We’ll see on March 31.