Lupesoliai La’auli Joseph Parker touched down at Faleolo International Airport yesterday to be greeted by a huge crowd who had waited patiently for his arrival.
But once the heavyweight was visible at the arrivals hall, the noise levels lifted as Samoa welcomed home their hero.
Lupesoliai is in the country for this Saturday’s Rumble in Paradise at Tuanaimato. He will glove up against American southpaw, Jason Bergman, who is scheduled to arrive this afternoon.
Speaking to the Sunday Samoan, Lupesoliai said he is excited and honoured to be in Samoa. He is especially proud to be able to bring a big fight home to his people.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “I’ve been fighting all around the world and this is the first time I will get to fight in my country. I was born in New Zealand but I’m a proud Samoan, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Lupesoliai expressed his gratitude to the people of Samoa.
“This is something to give back to the Samoan people, and for their great support throughout my career I’d like to say thank-you.”
Trainer Kevin Barry spoke about the significance of this fight.
“The fact that we’ve always planned on being here at the end of the year has motivated and inspired him and given him something to look forward to, so we are so excited to be here,” he said.
“Joe loves his Samoan heritage and the fact that I was with David Tua for 12 years and we never brought a fight here to Samoa; this is something that we all wanted to do. It’s important to pay back the love and support.”
Barry described Lupesoliai as “the busiest fighter in the world top ten” with six fights in the last 10 months. The boxer has had no rest. And such a rigorous training schedule takes its toll on even the most elite athletes.
But Lupesoliai is confident. And in response to remarks by his opponent Jason Bergman in New Zealand last week, Lupesoliai isn’t too worried.
“There are concerns and question marks in your head but I’ve prepared myself as best I can and even though I’m sore here and there, I’m 100 per cent ready and I’m going to go out there and make Samoa and New Zealand proud.” For Barry, he said the trip means a lot to the both of them.
“I thank the people of Samoa for their love and support of Joe,” he said. “Keep supporting him and all I can say is I’m doing everything in my power and ability to make Joe the very best he can be.
“I’ve never trained a fighter who is as driven and who works as hard as Joseph Parker.
“So what I’m hoping is over the next 12 or 18 months, that we’ll be back here, standing in front of the crowd here in Samoa and we’ll have the world title belt with us.”
Despite the challenge Bergman poses being a southpaw fighter, Barry is confident that hosting the fight on Samoan soil will give Lupesoliai at least a slight advantage.
“Joe comes here every year at this time of the year and holidays so he knows what to expect with the heat,” Barry said. “We know it’s going to be hot, for the last three years, Joe has lived and trained in Vegas with me and it’s very hot in Vegas. He loves it; we love the heat.”
“I think that it’ll be a lot harder for Jason Bergman who’s coming from Pittsburgh where they’ve got snow and it’s a lot colder than where we just came from.”
Back for the first time since the fight announcement 3 months ago, Lupesoliai is looking forward to a stay longer than just 4 days this time, and is looking forward to “catching up with family and friends when the craziness of fight week is over.”
Parker vs Bergman: The facts
For: WBO Oriental and
WBO Pan African Titles
Parker: 17-0-0 (15Kos)
Bergman 25-11-2 16Kos)
• Parker is currently ranked WBO#3; IBF#7; WBC#10; WBA#12 and celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday.
• Bergman has won 16 of his last 18 fights and Parker is the 10th undefeated opponent the American will have faced in a nine-year professional boxing career.
• This is Joseph Parker’s fourth fight outside New Zealand following previous bouts in Los Angeles in 2013 and Germany & Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 2014.
• It is the first time in Parker’s professional career he has faced a southpaw (left-hander). The last time he did was as an amateur where he admits he ‘didn’t have a clue’.
• The reason this bout against southpaw Bergman is so important to Parker’s development is because of what is happening this weekend in New York. WBC World Champion, Deontay Wilder defends his title against Polish southpaw Artur Szpikla. On the same card, the IBF world title (recently stripped off Tyson Fury) will be contested between Ukranian, Vyacheslav Glazkov and American southpaw Charles Martin.
• Parker’s world ranking should rise in the WBC and IBF following these bouts regardless of the results. (The rational being he gets closer to the front of the line as each fighter ahead of him has his title shot and then goes to the back of the queue).
• Wilder has prepared for his world title defence by sparring Jason Bergman.
• The number one goal in 2016 is to move into the mandatory position (#1 challenger) with one of the boxing organisations to challenge for a world title. It took David Tua eight years and 38 fights to become the mandatory challenger to Lennox Lewis. Parker turned professional in July 2012.