Parker Talks Lessons He Learned From Klitschko
In 2014, New Zealand boxer Joseph Parker fought on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko’s title defense against Australian Alex Leapai in Germany. While Parker was successful that night, knocking out Marcelo Nascimento in seven, he learned a lessson from watching Leapai struggle mightily in a loss to Klitschko.
Parker has grown significantly in two years, and will now compete for the WBO heavyweight title that was once Klitschko’s. He will compete in front of a hometown crowd in Auckland, similar to Klitschko’s title defense that night in Oberhausen.
Ahead of the title shot, Parker recalled the lessons he learned from watching Klitschko’s poise and Leapai’s loss of focus under the bright lights of a world title fight.
"That was a great experience and one I’ve taken forward," Parker said. "I guess the way that I see it, Alex prepared himself the best he could physically but mentally he wasn’t prepared.
"I guess all the pressure of the media and the attention he got, he wasn’t prepared for that moment."
Parker, on the other hand, feels that his mental fortitude is his strongest attribute, and the area in which he has most improved over his last handful of fights. He has even enlisted the service of the All Blacks rugby team’s mental skills coach Ceri Evans ahead of his upcoming bout with Andy Ruiz.
"Leading to here, my shot at a world title, we have done a lot of practice for this in terms of handling things mentally," Parker said. "I’m not scared, I’m not nervous, I’m prepared for it."
After Parker fought on Klitschko’s undercard, the Russian reigning heavyweight champion invited the New Zealand boxer, then only 23, to spar with him at his Florida training camp. At the time, Klitschko was one of Parker’s heroes, and the opportunity to train with him was one that left a lasting impact on Parker.
Klitschko was impressed with Parker’s skills at the time. He may have never guessed how quickly things would change in the span of two years: Klitschko lost his belts to Tyson Fury, who then vacated them due to mental health issues. Parker will now compete for one of those titles, while Klitschko is poised for a 2017 title fight with rising star Anthony Joshua.
In 2014, Klitschko and Parker sparred as mentor and prospect. In the coming years, they could step into the ring as opponents.
Joseph Parker faces Andy Ruiz for the vacant WBO heavyweight title on Dec. 10 in Auckland, New Zealand.