Lupesoliai La’auliolemalietoa Joseph Parker might be the hot favourite for the world title among Samoans but his Coach, Kevin Barry, believes his opponent has the upper hand.
But that’s just typical of the challenges the duo have had to overcome over the years. They have faced tremendous odds, overcame them together and now they are ready for what will be the biggest test of their partnership.
“There were a lot questions of whether or not Joe and I would have the chemistry to be a team,” Barry said. “Whether or not Joseph Parker, who was an amateur boxer with reasonable success but no stamina could find the stamina to develop into a professional to go twelve rounds.
“Whether or not Joseph Parker, who was a guy who had good hand speed but no power, would be able to get the respect of other heavy weights in the world and knock them out. This is how we started three and half years ago.
“I think you’ll all agree that this young man has done a tremendous job. He’s been supported by a pretty damn good team along these last four years of his career.
“This fight for us is the end of a four year apprenticeship. Joe has developed, progressed. He’s got bigger. He’s got better. His skills have improved. He has collected belts; I think we’ve collected 8 in the three and half years. And everything has prepared us for this moment. Let’s remember, this young man has been a professional for a total of four years and the last three and half with me.”
Up against Ruiz Jnr for the title, Barry is under no illusion about the difficulty of the job at hand.
“Andy Ruiz is an eight year professional. Andy Ruiz is a guy who’s never been hurt. Never been beaten. Never been down. Andy Ruiz is a guy who we have huge respect for, a guy we have studied and a guy we have prepared for.
“A fighter that brings more pressure than any one that we’ve seen in Joe’s career. Andy is a guy who was a tremendous amateur, a record of 105-5. You don’t have 110 amateur fights and win 105 of them unless you know what you’re doing.
“We all know that Joseph Parker punches fast, and every press conference we’ve ever had, we’ve talked about the hand speed of Joseph Parker. Well let me tell you this, I believe Andy Ruiz punches faster than Joe. I’ve studied Andy up close, a little under four years ago; I did a little bit of work with him in the gym. I’ve had a couple of conversations with his manger at the time, and there was a chance that I was going to end up training Andy.
“I went to watch him a couple of times live, and right then, I believed, and this is back early 2013, I thought, “This guy is destined to be a world champion. I was so impressed with him.”
The Parker camp have had to make major adjustments to their strategy as they were gearing up to face opponents who were giants compared to 6 ft 2 in Joseph Parker.
Despite Ruiz and Parker being fairly equal in height, Barry is wary of Ruiz’ brute strength and expecting an explosion in the ring when these two knock heads.
“This fight for me, when it was first made and everyone was jumping up and down and saying we don’t have to fight; Anthony Joshua and we don’t have to fight Tyson Fury. We’ve got Andy Ruiz. I said for me, the other guys are giants, 6”6’ and 6”9’, Andy’s about 6”2” but you’ll see when he arrives Andy’s about 6.
“It changed our whole preparation, our whole mindset in the last six months. Everything has been geared toward us preparing Joe for a big man. The last couple of training camps, the sparring partners were all big guys. We all saw in the Dimitrenko fight how well Joe had prepared for a big man,” Barry stated.
“When you prepare for guys who are over 6”6’ to a guy who’s 6”, it’s quite a big rethink. I remember saying to Dave Higgins and they were so excited and so pumped that Joe was fighting Andy Ruiz and a lot of people thought Joe’s going to win the world title. Well let me tell you this, Andy Ruiz is a bloody hard fight.”
“This one here is a very difficult fight,very very difficult fight. Let me just say this, you’ve got guys who are undefeated. In 15 professional fights, no one’s had a loss or know what it’s like to lose. You’ve got two young guys Joe Parker is 24, Andy Ruiz is 27. You’ve got two guys who both like to come forward. Now when you’ve got two guys coming forward, there’s an explosion in the middle.”
“This fight I believe, not only is this a great, great fight, I believe this will be the greatest heavy weight fight that we will see in the world this year. On paper, this fight has all the attributes to be one of the greatest heavy weight fights in the world this year.
I’m a boxing fan and student of the game. I watch fights all the time. Some of the heavy weight fights have been pretty dismal. When I look at what these guys bring to the fight, I think this is going to be the most exciting heavy weight fight of the year. When I talk to the people in the U.K. and America, all the jurnos (journalists) agree and say the same thing, we can’t wait for this fight.”