ANTHONY JOSHUA kept the media and Joseph Parker waiting for more than half an hour at their initial press conference back in January. “Running on AJ time,” we were told.
But today at the Sky Central offices in west London, there were no such delays and Parker’s threat to walk out of the press conference if Joshua dared waste his time again remained just that – a threat.
“Firstly, I would like to thank Anthony Joshua for being punctual today,” said Parker’s promoter David Higgins. “Secondly, I would like to let him and Eddie (Hearn, Joshua’s promoter) know I will not be taking any bait from them. Eddie is definitely the second best promoter in the world but it’s not about him and it’s not about me.
“I challenge Eddie Hearn to let Anthony Joshua do the talking. If he comes and baits me, I will get off the stage and I challenge him to do the same.”
With ground rules established, what we were greeted to instead were a couple of heavyweights – punctual heavyweights – tired of talking and keen to get down to business.
“We’ve had a tremendous camp and some great sparring,” said Parker. “We had a lot of pain but we enjoyed and embraced it. I’m looking forward to showing the best Joseph Parker there is. I feel ready, confident, and my movement is better than ever. I’m taking these belts back to New Zealand – and Samoa.
“I feel it’s my time. I’m young, fast, strong and determined to win. I’m not here to put on a show or for a payday. I’m here to take the belts back and be part of history.”
Joshua said: “Every fight is a learning fight and every camp is a learning camp. I know now I shouldn’t use training camp to get fit. So I now approach camp in good condition and have taken everything I didn’t know then and know now and taken it into this camp. I used this camp to work on my ability rather than to get fit for 12 rounds.
“I feel like every fight’s a blessing. Every fight will have reason in the long run. It’s Parker, that’s the reality, and it’s a blessing. He’s a champion and has done well for himself. He will add something to my life journey. I’ll learn from it and move forward.”
Joshua and Parker, set to meet in a WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight title unification fight on Saturday (March 31) in Cardiff, are all out of the good stuff. But that’s just fine.
Indeed, it’s a testament to the quality of the fight, and its importance, that a noticeable lack of spark between the pair – let’s face it, neither will ever excel on that front – takes nothing away from the fact it’s a fight brought to the boil at just the right moment. Both, it could be said, have arrived on time – in every sense of the word.
“The best time,” said Parker. “He’s at his best; I’m at my best. There will be no excuses after this.
“I see him (Joshua) as a great champion. The reason why we wanted this fight is because we respect him and what he has achieved in the boxing world. We love challenges and we see him as a big challenge. That’s why we want to fight him. We both have weaknesses and strengths and the winner will be the one who produces on fight night.”
“I’ve been boxing amateur and professional for 10 years now and for a long time I had to rely on my strength and physicality,” said Joshua. “But over the time I’ve developed a lot of mental strength and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s always one fight at a time. A lot of talk has been happening about AJ and Deontay (Wilder, the WBC world heavyweight champion). But people need to be realistic. I’m looking at Joseph Parker, a lively challenge, a champion for a reason. For now, my future stops on Saturday. I’m not looking beyond that moment.”
Joshua is 28 years of age with a perfect record of 20-0 and 20 knockouts. Parker, meanwhile, is two years younger and boasts a 24-0 record with 18 knockouts. They are inexperienced, learning on the job, thriving in an era, a post-Wladimir Klitschko wasteland, short on top contenders and a chasing pack.
Yet the pair are totally ignorant to the notion of defeat, having not experienced one as pros, and therefore lack the caution of wiser heads, former champions, men who know the fine margins between winning and losing in the heavyweight division. Which is why, when they say they will stand and fight, there’s every chance they mean it; what’s more, there’s every chance, at this stage, that’s all they know.
“I’m going to beat him,” said Parker. “I haven’t decided how I’m going to beat him yet – whether it’s by knockout or decision. We’ll decide on fight night.”
Joshua was a tad more precise. “The simple thing is he’s got two arms and so on and so forth, but, in terms of attributes, he’s quick and he can take a punch,” he said. “That’s what I’ve heard.
“I’m definitely preparing for a 12-round fight, which isn’t a problem. But let’s say I’ve got 20 quid in my pocket and I’m looking at Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker. I believe Anthony Joshua will knockout Joseph Parker, for sure.”
In four days, we find out.