Thursday, February 29, 2024

Parker skating on thin ice

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Having knocked out American Mexican Alexander Flores in Christchurch on Saturday night, former WBO world heavyweight champion Joseph Parker was lucky not to have been disqualified.

Three punches below the belt hurt Flores before Parker delivered the coup de grace in the third round with a vicious barrage that earned the KO.

Looking bigger and stronger, he had boxed smart, leading with a sharp left jab and scoring with a powerful right cross and some sharp rips to the body.

In was a big improvement on his listless London points loss to Dillian Whyte although Flores lacked Whyte’s mongrel aggressiveness.

However coach Kevin Barry’s high risk strategy encouraging Parker to hit sparring partners in the groin could backfire with a disqualification when fighting abroad.

It’s akin to skating on thin ice and contravenes the Marquis of Queensbury rules that encourages a civilised aspect to what many consider a brutal but fascinating sport.

However working at increasing Parker’s strength and stamina is necessary if he is to be competitive against the big brutes that include Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and Whyte.

Meanwhile popular former Warriors and Kiwis wing Manu Vatuvei looks an exciting boxing prospect after having KOd Dave ‘ The Brown Butterbean’ Letele in 28 seconds in his pro debut against an opponent having his 20th.

At 32, Vatuvei may not be the force he once was on the rugby league field but there was enormous power in the right uppercut he delivered to the hapless Letele’s jaw in the ring.

Unlike most novices he punches correctly and with impressive timing, suggesting he could be a major drawcard with fans who have grown to love his self-deprecating nature.

We have yet to see the defensive skills he will need against better fighters than Letele who, however, is no patsie. Meanwhile he is wise to insist he should make haste slowly.

There is talk about matching Vatuvei against Cronulla Shark, Paul Gallen, aged 37. But I’d prefer to see the more experienced Sonny Bill Williams have first crack at the tough Aussie.

Meanwhile Steve Hansen’s announcement that he would retire as head coach of the All Blacks after the 2019 World Cup came as no surprise. Nor that he claimed his assistant Ian Foster would make a good successor.

Foster has obviously learned a lot since his unsuccessful tenure as Chiefs coach before Dave Rennie took them to two Super Rugby titles. His advantage is he has knowledge of the current crop of players with whom he has a mutual trust.

Unfortunately champion Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won’t be a candidate for the job despite retiring from his current one after the World Cup.

However there are plenty of other outstanding prospects, among them Rennie, Warren Gatland, Vern Cotter, Jamie Joseph, Tony Brown, Chris Boyd and Scott Robertson who has lead the Crusaders to Super Rugby glory in his two years in the job.

While Fred Allen was unbeaten in his tenure as coach of 14 tests, I agree with those critics who claim Hansen to be the greatest in a harder international environment.

I also think he learned a lot from Graham Henry after both served tough international apprenticeships with Wales. But he has become his own man and one always ready to acknowledge the contributions of his assistants.

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