When Joe Parker had 1 fight left last year he, as with all his other fights, arrived an improved boxer. We have yet to see Parker with an off night, apparently fighting injured or out of sorts. As expected we saw him laying down on his punches with great power from the 1st opportunity as he has displayed in his latest fights - going up a notch or 2 by again displaying a fast start at close to full power. It was all over within the first round.
Before the fight Kevin Barry revealed that he had given up on Parker lifting weights, instead concentrating on body weight exercises. The changes to Parker's appearance was evident. Some readers will know that lifting weights in many particular exercises doesn't emulate specific movement an athlete will use in his or her competing. At no stage in boxing will a boxer use his or her muscles in anyway that directly and consistently corresponds with weight training, they will however completely use their own body weight and strength throughout their contest. Weight lifting is not a natural way for a boxer to train and many boxers, as Parker seems one, will not benefit as compared to training with body weight - their weapon in the contest. Additionally, what is a good way of training for one boxer may not suit another. An advantage for Parker early in career, as it has been with some greats, is that picking up weight between fights is not a problem. When he is in pre-fight training it is not to shed weight, rather to heighten his skills and fitness for the next fight.
His other advantage is his partnership with Kevin Barry, as dedicated trainer as Parker is fighter. I saw Lance Revel recently going about his day job of fixing a fence and wondered what he thought of Parker's progress. He had always been negative about Tua's chances at the top but never from memory about his power. Of similar build if not height to Parker Lance came late to the heavy weight ranks in his career, I'm fairly positive he would approve of the progress of Parker if not the calibre of his opponents. How distinctly different the world is now for young Kiwi boxers compared to the past. Tom Heeney more than likely paid his own fare to the states before eventually being the first NZ boxer to fight for the heavyweight crown. By the time of the Tua and Barry partnership there were training camps held in the states. An overall impression, that despite that era being a pioneering base for the entirely professional training of Parker, could be that David Tua did not fully appreciate his opportunity of what the professional efforts of Barry meant to his career and could have meant to his career had they been fully embraced. At times Tua appeared to think that what was happening for him was to be expected - his destiny as he sometimes put it.
Whatever different opinions are Barry has been at the forefront of putting NZ boxers on the world stage, if not each individual boxer - then the blueprint or format. Barry no longer wears his heart on his sleeve as he often appeared to do with Tua. What has cost him dearly is now his reward, experience. That experience with respect to Parker looks to be melding into the perfect partnership no matter how far Parker travels in his career, the partnership, training, and mental application looks capable of taking him as far as his training, talent and skill will allow toward a world title. Whereas many critics bemoan the development of Parker, in particular the hand-picked opponents etc, the reality is of the tried and tested route. To look for the benefits one need only look at Parker's record, his standing in the rankings - but most of all his constant development and improvement. Such is his improvement that even his doubters cannot deny it, whilst many commentators from afar including boxers and ex champions confirm the progress of the young, gifted with speed, heavyweight.
Parker in 2 short years no longer looks so wide eyed with excitement and opportunity. He is fully, and menacingly focused in a way that not only draws attention but exudes bitter determination. Klitschko should overturn his defeat to Fury mainly because the latter looks to untidy in his personal life, pick Klitschko to turn the tables by out thinking the British heavyweight long before their scheduled fight. Whatever the outcome of that fight, I anticipate steady progress for Parker again this year, more of the same - credible opponents, some chosen for their style and the prospect of Parker gaining experience by the match. Look for a continued steady climb from the busy fighter that Parker has proven himself to be - certainly higher rankings and perhaps a career defining fight either this year or next. He's got the goods, he's being finally tuned and honed physically and mentally. Not all boxers have that opportunity or mental state of mind, they are relatively few and far between. Parker is certainly one, as is Klitschko another. Soon however, it will be Parker's turn to enter the elite world where Klitschko has ruled, as others have before him. Most boxes look likely to be ticked in his favour and he will know what we all know there is no certainty apart from the fact he continues to make the very best of his chances.