“First Samoa, then New Zealand.”
That’s what heavyweight world champion, La'auli Lupesoliai Joseph Parker, said when asked if the W.B.O. heavyweight belt was for Samoa or New Zealand.
Yesterday was no ordinary Sunday, rather than the usual routine of going to church, followed by toona’i before that heavenly Sunday nap, residents of Leauva’a and Faleula village crowded the roads to give Lupesoliai the hero’s welcome he so deserves.
A sea of flags and banners welcoming the champ home were seen everywhere at the two villages with the young, the middle-aged and the old screaming “GO JOSEPH PARKER” at the top of their lungs.
Pride in what Lupesoliai accomplished for Samoa was obvious.
Although the champ’s short visit is just four days long, it is more than enough for Samoa to continue to show their loving support.
The Minister for Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio and the Minister for Communications and Information Technology and Afamasaga Rico Tupai, joined a team from the Samoa Tourism Authority to give a V.I.P. airport experience for the champ.
During a press conference at the airport, Lupesoliai says that there are no hard feelings between him and the Auckland Council for not backing his fight, but he is extremely happy that Samoa was there to show support.
“No hard feelings, we are not sure why they (Auckland Council) didn’t back us, but we’re lucky to have Samoa back us,” the champ said.
“No matter what, Samoa has always been there from the start. Maybe next time they can help but I am sure Samoa will be there to help again.”
Lupesoliai continued on to elaborate just how grateful he is.
“I am just so grateful and I also want to say thank you to my family,” he said.
“I want to say thank you Samoa for putting in money to make the event happen and for the great support.
“You know I can feel the love everywhere, even now just coming to the airport I can feel love so I look forward to actually seeing everyone in town and going out to see people (and) saying hello.
“You know I love this place; I have come here ever since I was a baby so Samoa is my home.”
But for Samoa’s champion son, it’s just great to be back home.
“Firstly, thank God that we arrived safely,” Lupesoliai said.
“I have come with the championship belt of the world. It’s good to be back here in Samoa and I look forward to seeing everyone.
“Today is a day of rest; I will relax a little and check into the hotel. It feels great (to be home), I love Samoa, I love being here, I love seeing family and friends.
“It’s a nice welcome; I am looking forward to seeing everyone on Wednesday for the parade and see the support and hopefully people can see the belt that we brought back.”
As for the post fight criticisms, Lupesoliai is confident of his win over Andy Ruiz.
“When you are doing well and you have success, you will always have people criticize you,” he said.
“So I watched the fight again. I know I won, I saw it and I won so I am happy with the result. When you are doing well you are doing well, you will always get criticized so it will give you extra motivation to train harder and aspire to do better.”
But where to from here, in terms of his boxing career?
“There is another fight sometime around April next year,” Lupesoliai said.
“But first I will have a rest, relax and then back to training in Vegas.”
And in a brief message to Samoa, Lupesoliai continued, “Samoa, I just want to say, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I look forward to seeing you all,
“Thanks for the great support for 2016. Please continue to show your support, I love you all, take care, God bless and see you soon.”