Parker, pride and butterflies
Today, Lupesoliai La’auliolemalietoa Joseph Parker will step into the ring at a sell-out Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, to meet the undefeated Anthony Joshua in the year’s most anticipated heavyweight boxing bout. Ahead of the fight, the Sunday Samoan caught up exclusively with Sala and Dempsey, Joseph’s parents, to find out their thoughts on their son stepping into the ring:
Question: Welcome to Cardiff, how are you enjoying the experience?
Sala: We’ve had a very busy schedule since we’ve arrived. We’ve been to the gym watching Joe and have done a lot of media interviews. We arrived quite early to have that connection with Joe leading up to the fight. He wants his family around him, so that’s a big plus for him to have us here, cheering him up and encouraging him.
Question: This is going to be a huge occasion for Joseph, isn’t it?
Sala: It doesn’t matter how many people watch the fight, Joseph feels that too. He’s very confident and he’s a good public speaker, he’s never tried to be someone he’s not. He always speaks from the heart. He stays focused and the crowd won’t bother him or interfere with his focus. The crowd has nothing to do with his preparations. Joseph will be confident and he will walk into the arena, look out to the people and be ready to get in the ring.
Question: The fight will commence at around 12pm in Samoa, just after Church giving the people the time to watch it live, what do you think of that?
Dempsey: The timing is right. Samoan people are very Christian so they will go to Church to wish to the Lord and then watch the fight. The timing is perfect.
Question: What goes through a parent’s mind when you see your child step into the ring?
Sala: Butterflies! We have seen a lot of dedication and cheers for Joseph. Whatever is going to happen on the night you have no control, you have to adjust yourself to whatever is going to happen.
Dempsey: I just wait for his opponent to go down, that’s all on my mind. We all hold hands together and pray. Anthony Joshua is a strong opponent, but we wait round by round. It’s always a positive emotion: he’s done the hard work in his preparation and trained so well. All your faith goes into the Lord and that keeps you positive.
Question: What were your thoughts on the Samoan war dance and Haka dance at the weigh-in?
Sala: It was fantastic, I thought it was so excellent. It made Joseph feel very special and gives him the message that two countries are behind him. It’s added an extra level of motivation to do well and he knows people care about him. It was a wonderful welcome for his weigh-in and it was quite unexpected.”
Dempsey: It was like a warrior preparing for war.
Question: In 1991, Samoa shocked Wales in Cardiff in the rugby, are we hoping for a repeat in fate for the fight?
Sala: Absolutely. He’s going into the ring expecting to surprise. I read in the newspaper this morning that Joshua is just going to walk in and expect just a slap on the face from Joseph. I think that’s a really good thing that people underestimate Joseph and his power. He will go into the ring as the underdog which brings less pressure and stress on him. He will go in and do his thing. He has a positive, focused mind at the moment. It would be nice to repeat 1991!
Dempsey: We stay positive, we stay mentally tough and always think positive.”
Question: We’ve just seen Victor Vito visit Joseph, what’s it like to have such immense support?
Sala: It’s wonderful to see Victor and others giving him support and that’s so encouraging. He met up with some famous people recently, it gives Joseph a lot of strength and another level of motivation before he gets in the ring.
Dempsey: Rugby and boxing are a little bit different. In rugby, you have 15 guys on the field but in boxing it’s just one person in the ring. Boxing is a family, but in the end, the boxer has to rely on himself. We have to look after him, though. He can’t rely on anyone, just himself, but it’s so good to have people visit him and give him that push. It’s a very hard game.
Question: Finally, how proud are you of Joseph?
Dempsey: We are very religious and we are very proud in our heart. When you see him in the ring you are crying in your heart.