The stage is set for an explosive Rumble in Paradise on Saturday night.
And if Samoa’s favourite son Lupesoliai Laauli Joseph Parker lives up to his promise to end the week with an exclamation mark, the thousands expected to attend the bout are in for a treat.
Yesterday, Lupesoliai and his American opponent, Jason Bergman, came face to face for the first time in Samoa during a press conference held at the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Resort.
Both fighters came across confident and well prepared.
But don’t tell Bergman that Parker is looking for an early break on Saturday.
“I think it’s going to be a very competitive fight and I honestly do believe I’m the best competitor that Joseph has faced so far,” Bergman said.
“I’m not the oldest, I’m not the youngest, I’m right in the middle, I feel that I’m in my prime and when it comes to experience. I’ve been in camps with three world champions within the last year and I was the top dog every time so I believe that it’s going to be very interesting.”
BRING IT ON: Lupesoliai Joseph Parker and Jason
Bergman at their press conference yesterday.
And Bergman doesn’t like being referred to as a ‘journeyman.’
“A lot of people look at me as a journeyman but I’m really not, that’s the funny thing,” he said. “I’m actually a prospect, because when I met my coach I was 9-9 because I wasn’t taught or trained.
“Like I said before in the first interview, since he’s been teaching me the right way, I’ve gone 16-2 so it’s actually more of a prospect against prospect and we’re going to see who comes out on top.”
The biggest story regarding this upcoming fight is the fact that this will be the first southpaw Lupesoliai has faced in his professional career. But his trainer Kevin Barry is convinced he and Lupesoliai have done all they can to get him fighting fit and ready for a new challenge.
“He’s prepared very, very well,” said Barry. “We’ve had a few ups and downs in the training camp for the simple fact that you know in 17 professional fights this is Joe’s first southpaw.
“So you know when you train a certain way for a large period of time and all of a sudden when you’re asked to move in a different direction, throw a few different sorts of combinations, there’s quite an adjustment.”
Of significance to the upcoming Rumble in Paradise fight is the recent World Boxing Council (W.B.C.) world title fight between defending champion Deontay Wilder and Polish southpaw Artur Szpilka.
“Sitting down watching that fight with Artur Szpilka and Deontay Wilder last weekend, Wilder was a very, very big favourite in that fight to just destroy Szpilka and yet Artur Szpilka gave Deontay Wilder fits for the first 9 rounds and he just could not, as good as he was, he could not work out the southpaw style,” said Barry.
“I don’t plan on letting that happen with Joe this Saturday night. But it just goes to show that when you’re fighting a southpaw it brings a whole different dimension to the game.”
“One thing that I can say is that every time Joe enters the ring he’s in great shape, he’s prepared very well for this fight, I think it’s going to be an exciting fight while it lasts,” Barry said.
And it seems that if Lupesoliai is going to make that adjustment to fighting a southpaw, there’s no better place for him to do that than here in Samoa.
“I’m actually grateful to be here in Samoa because the body’s agreeing with me being here,” he said.
“The injuries that I’ve had and the sore back that I’ve had, I’m not really feeling it anymore and it just shows that this beautiful weather is definitely helping with it.”
Lupesoliai closed the press conference with fighting words, claiming that he was going to finish the week with an exclamation mark.
“I’m determined to finish this week off with an exclamation mark. This is the end of my year, there’s going to be fireworks, there’s going to be a war between me and Jason and we’re ready for it.”
Bergman promised to do his best to give Lupesoliai his first loss, saying that he didn’t believe any world heavyweight fight should go the full 12 rounds. “Of course every fighter trains hard, prepares hard for their upcoming fight and he has the same intentions as I do. We’re both going to go in there and do our best and the best man will be standing there at the end of the night,” said Bergman.
As for Barry, he said: “I thank Jason, and I thank his trainer Jack for accepting the fight, and for coming out here to Samoa and we look forward to putting on a very explosive, a very dominating fight on Saturday night in front of the fans that Joe loves the most.”
Getting in touch with culture
Getting in touch with his Samoan roots, Lupesoliai and his team visited the Samoan Cultural Village yesterday.
They were welcomed with a traditional Samoan Ava ceremony, followed by a demonstration of the Siva Samoa and the fa’ataupati, with the taualuga being performed by the beautiful Miss Samoa, Ariana Taufao.
The afternoon also featured traditional Samoan cooking using the umu method, palusami and plenty of coconuts which the group later ate with enthusiasm.
Lupesoliai and his team particularly enjoyed learning about the traditional art of Samoan tattooing, with trainer Kevin Barry fascinated by the rich history and symbolism involved in the cultural practice. The tapa making demonstration was also a big hit amongst the visitors, with Lupesoliai captivated and impressed by the traditional techniques displayed by the women working at the cultural village.
“I had a great time, I really enjoyed it,” Lupesoliai said. “There were a lot of things that I didn’t know that I learned today. I knew some things but the guy Chris definitely explained a lot of the cultural things properly to me and I sort of understood a bit more now. So I actually enjoyed it and it’s great to have everyone here.”
Lupesoliai is proud of his Samoan heritage and both he and his parents feel blessed that this fight has brought him back to his roots.
The afternoon at the cultural village gave Lupesoliai a chance to learn more about the Samoan culture and to share that culture with his family, friends and team.
Lupesoliai is grateful for the chance to be here in Samoa, to fight in front of the Samoan people, and to be back with his family in his home.