The stage is set for the biggest professional boxing event in Samoa.
And the star of the show, Samoa’s very own Lupesoliai Laauli Joseph Parker, is all gloved up and ready to go for the Rumble in Paradise at Tuana'imato tonight.
Weighing in at 108.9kgs, a determined Lupesoliai wants to reward the thousands of Samoans who braved the hot sun to give him the biggest weighing in ceremony in his professional boxing career. On Beach Road yesterday, thousands of children, men and women – some having made the trip from Savai’i – lined the streets to get a glimpse of their hero.
A lean and mean Joseph Parker
“I’m ready to go,” Lupesoliai said, glancing at his opponent, 116.7kgs American southpaw, Jason Bergman.
“I’m feeling great. Kevin’s been teaching me new skills and techniques to approach Jason and what he’s going to bring so I’m all prepared and I’m going to go in tomorrow night ready for action.”
Reiterating his desire to end this phase of his career with an exclamation mark, Lupesoliai said the fight tonight is a very special one for him.
“I’m just enjoying being here. This is my home,” he said. “I come here every year for holidays but this time I’m here for business. I’m here to take care of business, I’m focused, I’m not feeling pressured you know; we train hard, so we know we can relax.”
Lupesoliai admits that the hype in Samoa this week has been different in how he would normally approach fights but he has taken everything in his stride.
“I just want to say thank-you to Samoa for the great support, for being here and coming tomorrow (tonight),” he said. “It’s going to be a great night with all the undercard fights and also me and Jason and Buttabean and his opponent so we look forward to seeing you all there.”
For Bergman, tonight will be business as usual when he enters the ring.
“I’m going to do my best,” said the American.
“I’m very confident, but he’s confident; I’m ready to rock and roll. I think I’m going to surprise a lot of people.
“Joseph Parker’s a great fighter; I think of myself as a great fighter, I think of myself as a prospect and so does he, so it’s going to be a championship fight, a world class fight.”
Asked for his thoughts on Lupesoliai’s liver punch, Bergman was not worried.
“You’ve gotta watch for everything,” he said. “You know, best of luck to them and whatever they’re working on and we’re going to do what we do.
“We definitely have an advantage over an orthodox fighter. I want to do what I can to expose that and hopefully it goes my way.”
Lupesoliai’s Trainer, Kevin Barry, said Lupesoliai is motivated by his week in Samoa and he is determined to do well for his people.
He was also full of praise for the young boxers at the Samoa Boxing Academy.
“There are a lot of young budding fighters coming through Samoa at the moment,” he said.
“We were training at Plantation Gym, Inga’s gym yesterday and a lot of the young boys there yesterday that Bubba’s training, some of them are only this big but they were throwing combinations that were as good as I’ve ever seen a young guy throw.
“So I know there is talent there, provided they get the right coaching, Samoa will once again be a powerhouse in boxing.”
Early yesterday, Samoa gathered outside the government building for the official weigh in the for Rumble in Paradise.
The Police band lead the march from their building down to the government building, with the Avele College and the Don Bosco College boys leading the fighters in.
Team Jason Bergman during the parade
The two colleges filled the area with the sounds of their Parker chants, and trainer Barry shared with the crowd how much the support meant to Lupesoliai, calling their chants an inspiration.
“With the young men that walked Joseph in, I thank you very, very much. It was absolutely fantastic listening to your chant and we were inspired by that, I saw the sparkle in Joe’s eyes and I know that it means a lot to him to be here and to have the support.”
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi welcomed Parker and Bergman to Samoa. In his speech, he lamented the decline of the popularity of boxing in Samoa.
“Samoans have always loved the sport of boxing,” he said.
Jason Bergman flexes for the crowd yesterday.
“However the recent World Cup performances have seen it moved to become a second tier sport in Samoa after rugby and I am proud to say that this Rumble in Paradise, with the talents that we will witness this weekend, will once again give the sport much focus as well as inspire the up and coming boxers of what they can achieve with hard work and commitment to training to perfection.”
“Our entire nation will be watching the match tomorrow night, with much excitement and also hoping it will not be too brutal for Mr Jason Bergman.”
Tuilaepa praised Lupesoliai for his hard work and dedication to the sport.
“We are extremely proud to have a son of Samoa exceed to high levels of the sport and hope to see him excel where no one has ever done before,” the Prime Minister said.
The weigh in was a huge hit with the visitors, with the Duco events team saying that out of all 17 of Lupesoliai’s fights, this weigh in was by the far the most spectacular.
“You’ve certainly given us something to think about when we head back to New Zealand for our weigh ins,” said Duco’s Talent Relations Manager, Craig Stanaway.
For Lupesoliai, he is confident that he and his trainer Barry have done all they can to prepare. He spent the rest of yesterday and this morning relaxing, confident that they have done all the hard work. Now it is just a matter of executing it in the ring.
The Facts: Joseph Parker v Jason Bergman
For WBO Oriental and WBO Pan African Titles - 12x3 minute rounds
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 recently.
• 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 the developments in New York reently where Deontay Wilder defended his title against Polish southpaw Artur Szpikla. On the same card, the IBF world title (recently stripped off Tyson Fury) was contested between Ukranian, Vyacheslav Glazkov and American southpaw Charles Martin. Martin won.
• 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.