Joseph Parker talks 'important' Tyson Fury sparring sessions as he gears up for Wilder fight

By Isaac M December 24, 2023

It often seems an impossible task to get the really big names in heavyweight boxing to fight each other, but at least two of them are on the same bill tonight in Riyadh… although not in the same bout  – obviously – that would be a Christmas miracle!

Nevertheless, it’s a power line up: Anthony Joshua takes on the leftie Swede Otto Wallin, while his reported/planned next opponent, Deontay Wilder – also a former World Champion – takes on another former world champion Joseph Parker.

It’s a bumper boxing bill at the Kingdom Arena – just a day after Manchester City claimed the Club World Championship in the same Saudi city.

The Saudis putting themselves right in the centre of world sport is no longer surprising despite their controversial human rights record.

Joseph Parker
Joseph Parker

Parker, who will walk away with the biggest pay cheque of his career later, says it didn’t occur to him to question fighting there.

“I didn’t know about any of that stuff, maybe I should have,” he says.

“But as a fighter, when you’re given the opportunity – and sometimes you don’t get the opportunity for a long, long time – for your family, I think all fighters will say they take all opportunities that come their way.

“So for me, it’s just about fighting and going home to my family safe and sound.”

The 31-year-old kiwi has had to adjust his day to prepare for a ring walk in the early hours of the morning to accommodate world TV.

I caught up with him after a 1pm breakfast, and he says his great friend and occasional sparring partner Tyson Fury has helped him get ready for this fight.

Having fought Wilder three times, earning a draw and two wins, no one knows the American better than Fury.

“It was very important to fly to England and meet up with Tyson, a man who’s beaten him twice,” Parker tells me.

“He’s the most knowledgeable about Wilder and what he represents.

“He’s always been helpful with my career and taken time to give advice, so it’s been very important we did that.”

He said it’s not only Fury’s advice that’s helped him prepare, but also throwing a few punches in some sparring sessions.

“Obviously he’s the champion of the world and he gave me the best workout I’ve ever gotten,” Parker explains.

“I’m not 6ft 9 like Tyson and I don’t have the longest reach, but the strengths I do have, I’m going to use to my advantage.

“He gave me great tips and we speak on a daily basis and he continues to give me more here and there. He tells us what he’s thinking.”

Parker is the underdog against huge punching Wilder, although he’s widely considered the better boxer technically.

Parker beat Jack Massey on points in January at the AO Arena in Manchester
Parker beat Jack Massey on points in January at the AO Arena in Manchester

His main challenge will be to try to get through 12 rounds without getting caught by Wilder’s infamous right hand, which has ended 42 of his 46 fights.

“If you go into the fight worrying about the right hand and worrying about being caught, your focus is on what he is doing,” Parker says.

“We have a plan – things we’ve been working on. I’m going to focus on what I’m gonna do and that’s go in with supreme confidence.

“I’m going to have good movement, good speed and I’m going to be punching with deliberate placement. If you tick those boxes, you’ll be fine.”

Tonight will be Parker’s fourth fight of the year and only the Bronze Bomber’s second in two years.

Parker says he believes “ring rust” is a factor and this could also be to his advantage.

With AJ saying it will probably be the end of the road for his career if he loses in Riyadh tonight, the level of pressure for Parker feels very different.

Irrespective of the outcome, he’ll get a plane home on Christmas Eve and arrive back in New Zealand on Boxing Day to be with his four little girls and pregnant wife considerably richer, and satisfied he did everything he could to beat the odds.


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