Joseph Parker is under instructions to forget about Sonny Bill Williams for the next four days.
It would be easy for the young heavyweight’s mind to be spinning with the prospect of a $1.3 million winner-take-all bout against SBW after Duco Events approached the footballer’s manager with the deal on Sunday.
But Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry is having no part of it and has warned Joseph to remain focused only on ‘King’ Afa Tatupu - his opponent in Thursday’s Hydr8 ZERO New Zealand National Boxing Federation title fight at Auckland’s Trusts Arena. "The first phone call I made when I read the story of the offer to Sonny Bill was to Joseph," Barry said. "I reminded him that he is fighting a guy on Thursday who wants to fight him - unlike Sonny who will do anything to avoid fighting him."
Tatupu’s record of knocking out seven of the nine opponents he has faced demands that Parker shows respect to the NZNBF champion.
"Mentally I don’t need Joseph wavering," Barry said, "because Afa is a legitimate heavyweight. He has proven he can go ten rounds, he has speed and he punches harder than both of Joseph’s previous two opponents (Brice Ritani-Coe and Francois Botha)."
Tatupu’s credentials have ensured Parker will go into Thursday’s fight in career best shape as he looks to retain his undefeated record six fights into his time as a professional.
He has sparred for over 130 rounds in camp and is in peak physical condition.
Parker said it has been easy to put in the work in the Las Vegas desert at Barry’s training base because of what is on the line on Thursday.
"I have the chance to win my first championship belt as a professional," he said. "That is a massive motivation. I always dreamt about being the New Zealand champion. Now that the chance to achieve that is in front of me, I can’t wait."
Barry is promising fight fans that they will see many improvements from the Parker who impressed with his second round KO of Botha in June.
"That was a good night but we need to show his growing fan base that Joseph has improved since then," Barry said. "I am expecting a very good performance from Joseph because he has made tremendous strides physically. He is stronger, fitter and faster than the last time New Zealanders saw him fight."
The undercard for the Hydr8 ZERO title fight - in the best traditions of Duco Events - is a mix between the very best of New Zealand’s fight talent with some of the biggest names in New Zealand entertainment.
Robbie ‘The Butcher’ Berridge’ is making plenty of noise as a light heavyweight. The bruising southpaw holds the WEBC Asia Light Heavyweight title and will face the toughest test of his 22 fight career when he gloves up against highly touted South American Mariano Jose Riva.
Another promising local fighter - Taranaki cruiserweight Sam Rapira - will put his undefeated record on the line against veteran Atalili Fai while American Julius Long, in town as a sparring partner for David Tua, will front up against former Cronulla Sharks and Canberra Raiders NRL star Jason Williams.
But, despite that quality, the ‘boxers’ just might have to play second fiddle to the celebrity fights.
First up will be the Battle of the Beautifuls between Miriama Smith and K’Lee McNabb.
Smith, of course, has starred in a number of Kiwi productions including Shortland Street, Shark in the Park, Xena: Warrior Princess, Mercy Peak and Power Rangers Dino Thunder. While McNabb is the one-time teenaged pop star who these days is one of the country’s top DJs on Mai FM. The other celebrity fight will see a listener from The Edge radio station step in with the iconic Temuera Morrison who will be doing his best to recreate his on-screen character ‘Jake The Muss’ who terrorised audiences with his violent streak in Once Were Warriors.
"No pressure, eh," laughs Morrison. "I was a pretty good fighter in the movies. Unfortunately on Thursday night there will be no director directing me and no stunt man stepping in to take my punishment. I have a feeling my life is about to get very real!"
Join Voxy on Google+.