Lupesoliai Joseph Parker – should he fall?

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Seti Afoa

The rise and rise of Lupessoliai Laauliolemalietoa Joseph Parker is a brilliant winning story. One day it will end. After all, his trainer Kevin Barry has said Ruiz Jr is favoured to win the against his charge next weekend. 

While I believe Parker will knock out Andy Ruiz Jr at Vector Arena, one day his story will take a wane. I hope and pray that time is a long way off and not in Auckland in six days’ time. 

We have to be prepared when that time comes. 

Right now, Parker is the media star in New Zealand. Every news agency is after his story, the stories about his story and stories around Joseph’s journey to this point. 

He is a media favourite for his accessibility and charm. He is conversant and intelligent. Above all, he has that manly sex appeal that all men young and old wish we possessed – good looks, height, a great sense of humour, and a well-toned muscular frame to go with being a nice guy.

His life this year has been a media circus. He has had more media conferences and one on one interviews in his native New Zealand, than most National Cabinet Ministers will have in the current parliamentary term. 

Media eyes and lenses, long and multiple zoom ones, are acutely focused on his every move. He is the news. He is the centre of attention everywhere he goes. People call his name, get him to sign autographs. He cannot go anywhere without being recognised and admired. The attention is unbelievable and unprecedented in his short life. 

It has all ramped up particularly this week. There are few more media around too than in his recent fights in New Zealand. 

At the once only Open Training session at The Wreck Room Parker will have before the fight, the cameras were there in numbers. Where Joseph moved the cameras followed. He did a few floor stretches, the cameras were on the floor with him. He stood up to take a drink from the water cooler, and like a line of fast moving ants we were snapping his filling of the cup, the raising of it to his mouth and Joseph gulping  down the cool refreshing water. All captured on film to be broadcast in several forms. 

He has lived with this type of attention for the last ten years. Joseph knows no other way of engaging with the media other than being the centre of the winning story. 

The problem with all this attention is it can create a false sense of reality for Joseph. It will not be there forever. When it goes away, it will be in a hurry and it will take effect immediately. 

When the indomitable Mike Tyson was duly dominated and knocked down by the unlikely James Buster Douglas in Tokyo for his first heavyweight defeat, Tyson was not only robbed of the Heavyweight Title of the World, he was also robbed of all the media glare that was his daily bread since being a champion.  

The glare of the media in the weeks that followed was entirely on the new champion. Tyson was forgotten, written off and dismissed by many. He was finished, washed up and done. The darling of the media was a resigned to the canvas. He went from being sought after to being forgotten. Tyson found that hard to take. 

All Boxers lose, no one wins forever. When that happens for Joseph, whether it is against Ruiz Jr or whenever, it will be a different story. Both Joseph and his fans need a strategy to deal with that possibility.

The other problem for Parker is non-believers. There are many, and lots of people who both quietly and openly scoff at his success to date. Many do not believe he will do the business against Ruiz. Even if he wins, it is not a real belt in their view anyway. Lots of Doubters and Scoffers. 

A bit like a house of Sadducees and Pharisees. It will surprise them no end should Parker lose to Ruiz at Vector Arena. In a way, they wish for a Parker defeat to confirm their own unbelief. Those people will instantly sing out in a Flash mob chorus of “I told you so. Hallelujah!” the moment defeat for Parker is confirmed. The choirmaster will be none other than Sir Bob Jones, Parker’s biggest doubter and former mentor, and also Boxing’s self-appointed Prophet of Doom.

The reason they will be unanimous in their chorus of chaos is because they doubt Parker’s ability to be the real heavyweight champion of the world, nor do they believe in the validity of the WBO Belt he is fighting for. The same people will still be scoffing and doubting, should by God’s mercy and grace, Parker wins all four belts by next year’s end. They will explain it away. 

And should Parker lose next weekend, it will not be the end of the journey. It will only be the beginning, a detour rather than an end. 

It is the glare of the cameras that will be the most telling thing for Parker, should he lose. At the end of every one of his 21 fights to date, he was mobbed by the media as the Victor on the night. He is yet to face the same media throng as the loser. He is yet to face his beloved fans as the also ran. That will be a new and unnerving experience for him. But it will happen.  

Then the week following a defeat, Parker will experience what is known as Media Attention Deficiency. Once sought by the Media, and now shunned. He may well ask himself: Where has the media gone? In that situation, he may also feel betrayed, or used. 

It is turns like this that crush people. Particularly if they lived by the quasi reality that Joseph has known only from the winning corner. 

For his true fans and supporters, we may find ourselves defending our champion, if not verbally, then at least internally to ourselves and to any of the Scoffers whom we may be unfortunate enough to meet immediately post a Parker defeat. After all, true believers defend what they hold true and dear, to the end. And I believe, Joseph Parker will do the business on Saturday. 

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