Joshua v Parker: Profiling the WBO champion

A softly spoken man outside the ring, Joseph Parker has the chance to make some noise in the heavyweight division on Saturday.

The New Zealander meets fellow undefeated fighter Anthony Joshua in a unification contest full of intrigue. The only certainty, it seems, is that someone's '0' will have to go.

While Joshua has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic in his career to date, Parker has barely made much of a ripple outside his homeland. However, he poses a serious threat to the Briton's plans to clean up the division.

But how much do you know about the WBO champion? Here we take a look back at his career to date ahead of the big fight in Cardiff.

Background

Born in Auckland, Joseph Dennis Parker - also known by his Samoan matai title Lupesoliai La'auli - is one of three children.

He was introduced to boxing at a young age by his father Dempsey, who was named after legendary American heavyweight Jack Dempsey, and joined Grant Arkell's Papatoetoe Boxing Gym at the age of 10.

The Kiwi won a bronze medal at the 2010 World Youth Championships and then went one better at the Youth Olympics later that same year, taking home the silver after losing to Frenchman Tony Yoka in the final of the heavyweight competition.

However, Parker never had the chance to appear in an Olympics before turning pro, missing out to Junior Fa of Tonga in the Oceania qualifying tournament for the 2012 Games.

Instead of heading to London and a possible meeting with Joshua in the amateurs, the Kiwi switched to the paid ranks at the age of 20.


Career achievements

Teaming up with Las Vegas-based trainer Kevin Barry, who had previously worked with another New Zealand heavyweight in David Tua, Parker quickly earned a reputation as a prospect with serious promise, reeling off win after win to climb the rankings.

After beating former Joshua opponent Carlos Takam on points in May 2016, he rounded out the year by claiming the vacant WBO title in Auckland, albeit via a close verdict on the scorecards after 12 rounds with Andy Ruiz Jr.

Parker has defended the belt twice since, toiling against late replacement Razvan Cojanu - who accepted the opportunity to step up from his usual role as sparring partner at short notice - before out-pointing Hughie Fury by majority decision last September in Manchester.

A 24-0 record, with 18 of those victories coming via knockout, is impressive, but his last three outings have all gone the distance.


Style

Standing at 6ft 4ins, Parker has both the size and skills to make life difficult for any heavyweight. He carries power but is not simply a puncher, with his extensive training over time giving him a solid grounding.

His hand speed is impressive and he remains confident his chin can cope with whatever comes his way. Unlike his opponent, there are no question marks over his stamina and he is the more mobile of the pair.

Against the teak tough Takam, Parker demonstrated his heart when weathering some stormy moments before coming out the other side. He found the defensive-minded Fury a frustrating foe to deal with, though he was apparently hampered by injuries at the time.

Now, having undergone surgery to cure longstanding problems with both elbows at the end of last year, the Kiwi is in excellent shape for the toughest challenge in his career to date.

"I think it was a very important decision for us to make [to have surgery]. We've had a lot of pain in the last two years, and I believe it has really impinged his performances," trainer Barry told Sky Sports.

Parker has the potential to trouble the WBA and IBF champion. If he can cope in the spotlight, with a sell-out crowd against him, he has the tools required to pull off an upset.

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