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Andy Ruiz did Joseph Parker a huge favour. In their first meeting in the ring three years ago, sparring in Las Vegas, Ruiz smacked Parker good in the mouth.
Parker was cut and could not eat for three days.
Kevin Barry and Parker were visiting a gym that day when Parker saw Ruiz in the ring. He was attracted by the size of Ruiz, he was overweight.
Surely he could take him on in a few sparring rounds. Barry cautioned against it, but Parker would not have a bar of it.
In he stepped in the ring thinking he would do it easy, but such was the speed of Ruiz’s hands and his awkward style that the Mexican ran rings around Parker.
Ruiz completely bamboozled our man with his fast hands and stroppy style. Parker was all at sea, looking for a paddle in those three rounds.
He got cut and cut good. He has never forgotten that moment.
Joseph Parker promises to get Ruiz back for that, on Saturday night.
That meeting alone will form the foundation of Parker’s approach to the WBO Title fight at Vector Arena on Saturday evening. He has had a taste of Ruiz. He is now well prepared for the wiles of “The Destroyer” from Mexico.
In Parker’s mind, he has already lost to the Mexican and it is time to get even. He will make good on Saturday. This is a Rematch.
Parker’s arsenal is that much better now. Then in 2013, he had just turned professional and had only four wins to his name against Dean Garmonsway, Terry Tuteru, Richard Tutaki and Dontay Pati. Fighters we have not heard of before, or since.
In the same year Parker would go on to fight a named heavyweight in Frans Botha who once won the IBF belt (Axel Schulz). This was the test for Parker whether he can step it up.
He did. Parker beat Botha to a pulp to win by TKO in the second round.
Although well past his best, the South African had experience on his side. He holds the next best winning streak to Mike Tyson, only experiencing his first heavyweight defeat in his 37th fight (Michael Moorer).
Parker was on his way.
The only other person to draw blood from Joseph Parker since Ruiz is Parker himself.
After fighting the 44 year old Botha, he lined up against fellow Samoan Afa Tatupu at Trusts Arena in Auckland. That fight would define Joseph Parker as a heavyweight fighter, and also Kevin Barry as an astute trainer and leader.
In the first round Parker sustained a massive cut above his left eye from a head clash with Tatupu. That cut has left a permanent mark above the eye. Parker would later describe the cut as “someone smiling back at me”. It was that big.
There was blood everywhere and the match doctor was going to stop the fight. Kevin Barry would not have a bar of it. He pleaded with the referee for one more round.
While treating his fighter in the corner, at the same time, he kept calling for one more round. Just give us one more round.
That wish was granted.
Barry’s instruction was clear. There was only one instruction and a very clear one at that - You have to win this fight in this round. You only have one round to beat this guy. Tatupu would otherwise focus on the left eye if it went on any longer.
The eye was quickly gelled over. Joseph was back in the ring for round 2, and the last round of that fight. He pummelled Tatupu to a TKO victory for his seventh straight victory.
The man Parker has become was coming into focus.
As well as overcoming adversity in that fight, Parker’s best lesson came from the Carlos Takam fight back in May of this year.
In that fight, Parker was very poor according to Kevin Barry. His defence was nowhere and he was visibly blowing hard in the early rounds. Parker himself would later refer to that fight as his worst performance to date.
There are good reasons and explanation for his lacklustre performance on the night, over training and a too long 12-week training camp that caused Parker to shut down ahead of the fight.
With all that, there was still enough of the fighter in Parker to put away a very experienced Carlos Takam. A fighter other heavyweight fighters like Anthony Joshua and Ruiz himself have avoided in their respective journeys to title fights this weekend (Anthony Joshua is fighting American Eric Molina on the same day in Manchester, United Kingdom for the IBF belt).
Joseph Parker and Kevin Barry have come full circle from that meeting with Ruiz three years ago. Parker is wiser and he is a more complete fighter now. More importantly he knows what it is like to be cut by an Andy Ruiz power punch.
Kevin Barry has done all he knows to prepare his man for it.
Parker is ready for Ruiz. As Parker has said - This is my moment. The Fighter has arrived for such a time as this. He is ready to be crowned WBO Heavyweight champion of the World.
In my other life, I cover the All Blacks, Boxing, watch the Weather and of course manage Samoa Events