Battle of the Coaches – Parker has it in the bag

By Seti Afoa ,

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Abel Sanchez and Kevin Barry at a joint Press Conference at Burger King today. It is Barry's hope this is the only time Sanchez will lay hands on the WBO belt.

Abel Sanchez and Kevin Barry at a joint Press Conference at Burger King today. It is Barry's hope this is the only time Sanchez will lay hands on the WBO belt. (Photo: Seti Afoa)

There is one thing Laauli Joseph Parker has over his opponent on Saturday night. His coach. Trainer Kevin Barry has been with Parker since the fight with Afa Tatupu in October, 2013.  In comparison, Andy Ruiz Jr has been with his coach Abel Sanchez for only six weeks. It is a huge difference when talking title bouts. 

The approach of the two men to their charges could not be more vastly different. Barry has been hands on with Parker, while Sanchez has been hands off with Ruiz. He has only just arrived in New Zealand three days out from the fight. 

Andy Ruiz himself only arrived in the country three days ago. It is not ideal for a title fight where a fighter crosses hemispheres to fight, to arrive within a week of the fight. Let alone have a coach that arrives separately to his fighter and only days out from the big fight. 

When questioned today about Andy Ruiz as to what new skills Ruiz has received from him in preparation for the fight, Sanchez pointed to his head, indicating mental toughness as the most crucial skill Ruiz has picked up from him since taking charge six weeks ago. 

“Andy has the mental capacity now to win the fight on Saturday night.” 

I then asked him whether he will be spending some time in the ring with Ruiz in the lead up to the fight. The answer was a shake of the head.

“Andy is ready to fight now. If he is not ready to fight now he will never be ready.” 

Sanchez admits that that the last time he worked one on one with Ruiz was two weeks ago. 

“Our heavy work was a week before I left (for Moscow). The last week of sparring he (Ruiz) did 8 x 4 minute rounds three times that week.” 

Ruiz has been in a cool down period for two weeks now according to Sanchez. He believes Ruiz has done enough to take the belt back home to Mexico.

“It doesn’t matter what anyone says, if the fighter believes it then that is how it will go.” 

When Andy Ruiz was approached six weeks ago by Duco Events to fight Parker for the WBO belt, it was Ruiz who went looking for a coach. He looked to the very successful and popular Sanchez to guide him to the WBO title. 

The problem is, or is it a problem, Sanchez has seventeen other fighters in his charge. 

The reason he was late arriving in New Zealand is that he was in Russia over the weekend where one of his fighters had a title fight. 

He then flew back to Los Angeles, drive to his home four hours away and back again to the airport, before flying to be with Andy Ruiz in New Zealand. 

It remains to be seen what impact this loose type of arrangement will have on Ruiz’s chances in the ring. 

Ruiz and his entourage that include both his parents and a trainer arrived with a fanfare enough on Sunday morning. But the fanfare was provided here by Duco Events with the Punaka and Powhiri welcome at Auckland Airport. 

With all intents and purposes, Ruiz seemed like a boxing orphan strolling into Auckland City for a less than an important fight. 

That is hardly ideal preparation. For someone Ruiz who would be looking to his mentor and coach for every bit of advantage in the lead up to Saturday night. 

What Ruiz has in Abel Sanchez is more of an Advisor role at best and perhaps a coach second. You cannot coach someone into a champion in a matter of six weeks. 

Kevin Barry on the other hand has one brief from Duco Events: to make Joseph Parker a World Champion. That has been sole focus since 2013.  

Barry still has ring sessions scheduled for Parker in the next few days. They are not heavy sessions, but sessions nevertheless to hone and fine tune the fighter for the prize. 

Joseph Parker is not just a fighter to Kevin and his wife Tania. He is their son. He lives at the family home in Las Vegas and is regarded as one of the children. 

The Barry’s investment in the success of Joseph Parker could not be more different to Sanchez’s investment in Andy Ruiz. That is not Sanchez’s fault by the way. He only answered a mayday call from Ruiz and his family six weeks ago. He can only work with what he was given.

However good he is as a coach and trainer, there is only so much that can be done in that short time. 

There is mutual ground between the two coaches. Sanchez and Barry both think the fight will go the full twelve rounds. 

“The first one to enforce his will, will dictate how it (fight) will pan out,” Sanchez adds. 

“The game plan will come after that. The game plan will only work if you have control of the fight and the other guy’s mind.” 

According to the two coaches, the fight will be a super tough fight that is too hard to call. 

Kevin Barry, “It will go twelve rounds. Both fighters will take a lot of punishment from each other.” 

Abel Sanchez, “I’m going to work my butt off the full twelve rounds to get my guy across the line.” 

One thing that Sanchez concedes is Parker and Kevin Barry have had a better round of oppositions compared to Ruiz. 

“I tell you the truth, I think Joseph has fought the more highly rated fighters than Andy,” I have it on camera from Sanchez. 

“Takam gave Joseph a scare which I think was better for him. But these guys are built the same way, they’re about the same size. They both have extremely fast hands, they both punch hard with both hands. I think that evens it up a lot. The guy that enforces his will and lands the first meaningful shot I think will win the fight.” 

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