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Joseph Parker Interview: How to win friends and influence people

By Bryce Wilson: Undefeated heavyweight Joseph Parker is running 15 minutes late for our scheduled chat on Skype to discuss his recent training camp with Wladimir Klitschko and upcoming fight on June 13th with Yakup Saglam. An apologetic Joseph explains that he was so engrossed in reading Dale Carnegie’s famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, that he had lost track of time.

It turns out this isn’t the only cerebral tome that has taken his interest as he mentions an autobiography on billionaire investor Warren Buffet as well as Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad as other recent reads. Having seen Joseph brutalize opponents in the ring it is a strange dichotomy to discover his interest in self-improvement books but also encouraging to see an athlete who fully understands and embraces the importance of mental preparation.

Sitting inside the Top 10 with both the WBA and WBO this year is looking like a big one for Parker. He is fresh out of sparring with Wladimir Klitschko and now gets ready to face German heavyweight Yakup Saglam on June 13th with another bout against an as yet to be named opponent in August.

BN: Talking about that Klitschko camp did you find the sparring as intense as a proper fight?

JP: At the start I was nervous, thinking how am I gonna be with the champ? He went hard on us, he had a few tricks that he used on us. The way that he spars and the way he does everything in training camp is the way that he fights and that was cool to see.

BN: By the end of the camp were you relatively happy you could hold your own with him and you were doing OK?

JP: Yeah I was happy and coach Kevin (Barry) was happy with how I went. The rounds I sparred I showed what I had. He respected us which was cool.

BN: Do you think he held anything back thinking that one day he may end up meeting you in the ring proper?

JP: You can never know what he’s thinking or gonna do next. He’s not only a boxer but he’s very smart, he’s got a PHD, speaks 3 or 4 languages.

BN: How does Wlad conduct himself around camp? I saw some interesting footage of you going to ask him a question and he kinda walks up and puts his hand on your shoulder and very much acts like the alpha male, the dominate guy even in conversations.

JP: Yep in everything. When he walks into camp he comes and says ‘hi’ and looks you straight in the eye, intimidating sort of. But he was cool, at the end of the camp I invited him down to New Zealand and I gave him my e-mail and we keep on touch. He would love to make it down when his schedule permits.

BN: I know you were one of the lucky ones who got to go to Mayweather/Pacquiao. We all know how the fight went, but I want to ask you what was the atmosphere like as a young fighter acclimatizing yourself to that type of situation, thinking one day you might be fighting at the MGM Grand?

JP: It was not like any other Mayweather fight I have been to. It was the craziest I have ever seen it. Vegas was packed. I sat there and watched and it was extra motivation, your dream one day is to be known as a great fighter. I was looking and imagining that one day that could be me. It certainly gave me that extra motivation.

BN: I also saw Golovkin’s fight in the weekend and the commentators mentioned something that I know you have been doing whenever you are down in New Zealand and that is walking the arena before the fight. Is that something Kevin suggested to you or is it you just wanting to see your family and friends before the fight and is it something you intend to keep on doing?

JP: For me when I get to the arena I like to see my parents and uncle and aunties. I like to get a feel for the arena and it gives me a good buzz. I’ll continue to do it. It’s something that’s important for me.

BN: You get a lot of fans wanting to take a photo with you before the fight. Do you find that distracting or do you quite enjoy that?

JP: For me I feel like I’m really relaxed. If they want a selfie I just smile and give them the photo. It makes their day and they continue to support you.

BN: I think it’s pretty cool and I hope it’s a trend that continues to grow. As you say for that person that gets their photo with you that may be their only opportunity to ever meet you and get that memento to keep.

JP: Yes, you’ve got a supporter for life, you’ve made their day and they’ll tell their friends. It’s a little thing like that that can make a big difference to the fan. Just the simple things like that, you’ve got to appreciate it.

BN: When did you guys find out you were fighting Yakup Saglam?

JP: Maybe 4 or 5 days ago. It’s been hard locking in someone. If you talk to Kevin it’s been difficult, ‘yes we have someone’ and then ‘no’ and then ‘yes we have someone’ and then ‘no’ again.

BN: In some ways you’ve been a victim of your own success in as much as although you’ve only had 13 fights but because of the way you’ve won some of those fights it’s made some bigger names reluctant to fight you.

JP: That’s bang on. They see the record, only 13 fights, but then they see the fights and they say ‘is it right for me to take the risk?’

BN: I know Kevin likes to set specific goals for every fight. Has Kevin set some goals for this fight?

JP: Yes with every fight and depending on who the opponent is we work on set things, and we are working on a few things for this fight but I’m not sure if Kevin wants me to mention them.

BN: Ok, understood. Well let me ask a slightly different question, what dangers do you think Saglam presents?

JP: Looking at the tape, he likes to throw bombs and his record shows he’s heavy handed and in any weight division if you land a big punch you can get knocked out. So Kevin has me working on defence, my counters and making sure I get off first so he is not able to set up those big bombs.

BN: I tend to think of you as an offensive fighter and offensive fighters often have to sacrifice a little bit of defence to be so offensive, same with a defensive fighter they have to sacrifice some offence to be so good defensively.

JP: I see what you mean. I am a lot more offensive which in a way actually helps me with my defence, but I do have to give up a little bit of defence to do so. But then you have someone like Floyd Mayweather who gives up some offense to be more defensive, but when he counters with his offense it’s on point.

BN: So it’s fair to say defence is a work on for you this year. Anything else?

JP: Yes definitely defence but also more body attack. It’s something we’ve worked on in this camp, we’ve seen it in sparring and it’s beginning to flow better.

BN: After the Costa Junior fight with it being such an impressive knockout do you feel any pressure from the fans perspective that they don’t just want you to win but do so in a spectacular way?

JP: With every fight the fans would love to see a knockout but for me but it’s good to have someone like to Kevin to talk to me about not being pressured from what other people expect from you. Going into every fight I have to work on the plan that Kevin sets. If the knockout comes, it comes.

BN: How long have you been with Kevin Barry now?

JP: Around the end of March 2013.

BN: At the start it must have been a really steep learning curve, with diet, intensity of training, etcetera. How sharp is that learning curve now? Is it as steep or is it now more about steady incremental improvements?

JP: At the beginning when I first came I was chubby and didn’t know what to expect. I was comfortable with the training back home but I didn’t know anything else. It was like you said, very steep and now I see improvements all the time. Now I have a lot more skill, technique and confidence.

BN: Did you find this new environment difficult at that start or did you take to it straight away and realize that this was the piece of the puzzle you were missing?

JP: I was like a sponge at the beginning. I knew Kevin had had champions but I didn’t know what to expect. I was comfortable at home. But when I came to Las vegas and saw the difference with our first fight together against Brice Ritani-Coe and then the François Botha fight I knew that this is what I had to do. Train three times a day and listen to somebody who knows what they are doing.

This seems as good a place as any to wrap up our conversation, leaving Joseph to continue absorbing the wise words of Dale Carnegie. In a few short weeks Parker will find that he may have made few more friends and influenced a few more people himself should he be able to put away Yakup Saglam in impressive fashion.

Joseph Parker, 13(11)-0 will face Yakup Saglam 34(31)-3 at Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North on June 13th.

You can follow Joseph on his Twitter page: twitter.com/joeboxerparker

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