If Joseph Parker is to become the first New Zealand-born fighter to win a world professional heavyweight crown at Auckland’s Vector Arena on Saturday night he will need to box smart instead of engaging in a slugfest with dangerous Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr.
Both are personable characters outside the ring who don’t engage in the sort of trash talk that made Mike Tyson the self-proclaimed “badest,” even before he bit off more of Evander Holyford’s ear than he could chew when disqualified in their June, 1997, WBA title fight in Los Vegas.
Inside it, however, both Parker and Ruiz have the killer instinct, punching fast and with power to record imposing knockout records; Parker winning 19 of 21 inside the distance and Ruiz 19 of 29.
As professionals, both are unbeaten. At 27, Ruiz is three years Parker’s senior. But at 1.93cm tall and with the same reach, Parker has an 8cm advantage.
That is something he will need to use behind a snappy left jab rather than standing toe to toe and engaging in a two-fisted slugfest he adopted when narrowly outpointing Carlos Takam.
There were occasions in that fight when Parker’s stamina was put to the test before he demonstrated his courage to deservedly score a close-fought contest.
I doubt if Ruiz’s defence is better than that of Takam’s. But he’s a tough guy who punches harder.
He’s also engaged world-renowned trainer Abel Sanchez to prepare him for this WBO title fight at high altitude. Sanchez doesn’t suffer fools and Ruiz has shred a lot of kilos to be in the best shape of his life.
Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry has not trained the swag of world champions Sanchez has.
The closest he’s come was when David Tua was outpointed over 12 rounds by Britain’s Lennox Lewis in Las Vegas on November 11, 2000.
However Barry knows his stuff, having been trained by his highly-respected Christchurch father leading up to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where he won the light-heavyweight silver medal when Evander Holyfield was disqualified for hitting him on the break and sitting him on his pants.
Having made Tua a contender, Barry’s dream is to go a step further with the gifted Parker whose confidence has grown following his win over Takam and an early TKO over giant Alexander Dimitrenko, whose heart failed to match his physique.
Parker’s left hook is sharp but is not as lethal as Tua’s was. However he is much taller, enjoys a longer reach, fires fast combinations to the body and head and has a better right hand.
Whether he can take a punch as well as Tua remains to be seen. Ruiz has the ammo to ask the question and most likely will.
Being patient, staying cool under fire and being prepared to defend when necessary could be vital to Parker’s success if Ruiz makes his customary storming start.
That will be what Barry will urge of an exciting young protégé who has prospered nicely under his guidance and that of the management of Duco Events promoters Dean Lonergan and David Higgins
Both Parker and Ruiz are two worthy young contenders with each having the knockout power to lower the boom and claim the WBO crown.
May the best man win, so long as it is Parker.
Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author