By: Ste Rowen
When you’re a promising, heavyweight boxer from New Zealand with Samoan heritage, you’re bound to be compared to David Tua. When you’re a heavyweight boxer from New Zealand, Samoan heritage and trained by Kevin Barry, the comparisons double. When you’re a heavyweight boxer from New Zealand, Samoan heritage, trained by Kevin Barry, and the WBO heavyweight champion of the world, it’d be almost sacrilege to not mention the ‘Tuaman’.
This coming Saturday, Joseph Parker, 24-0 (18KOs) headlines a heavyweight unification clash at Cardiff’s, 74500 capacity stadium, two fights removed from his unanimous decision win over Andy Ruiz for the vacant WBO belt.
It’s a height his fellow countryman, and New Zealand’s favourite boxing son, David Tua never reached. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, David is remembered as one of the best heavyweights, never to win a championship belt.
Despite this, the question still remains over how Parker stands up when compared to the ‘Tuaman’.
In Tua’s one world title fight, he was soundly beaten by ‘THE’ man at the time, Lennox Lewis, but under the tutelage of Kevin Barry, David’s standing in boxing folklore is backed up by his victories over the men who would become champion and of course, a legendary chin.
As an amateur, Tua Campaigned at heavyweight (91kg) and achieved a very accomplished career which included winning a bronze medal in the 1991 World Championships and then bronze again in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Parker was just as much an accomplished ‘Youth’ Olympian. Campaigning at super heavyweight (+91kg), he won silver in the 2010 Youth Olympics and a bronze in the Youth World Championships of the same year, but the step up to the adult tournament proved too much as he failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London, which sealed his decision to turn pro in the same year.
Parker’s most impressive professional performance to date came in a 12-round slugger with Carlos Takam, Anthony Joshua’s most recent opponent. Throwing 534 punches, landing 102/261 power shots, Joe came through his first big test a better fighter than he entered. It was also the first-time fans were able to see his chin really tested against a higher calibre of opposition.
I was lucky enough to be in Auckland to see Parker fight five months later at the 3000 strong Vodafone Events Centre. That night he came up against the limited, but well-respected Alexander Dimitrenko. 20-0 (17KOs) at the time, Parker lived up to the ever-growing hype. There was an efficient nastiness to him as he didn’t rush in unnecessarily, found range well behind a composed jab, and fired off deft right hands that seemed to shake his opposition every time they landed. It all combined for three knockdowns in the first two rounds, and an unusual 3rd round body shot finish, when the Russian already looked downed.
It was the last KO Parker scored. In his three performances since, the New Zealander has gone 36 rounds, great experience you might say, but the quality of performance hasn’t matched up with the Parker we saw clash with Takam or Dimitrenko.
To win the WBO strap (his next fight after Dimitrenko) Parker took on the surprisingly quick hitting Mexican-American, Andy Ruiz. Also unbeaten, at 29-0 (19KOs) Ruiz had built up a solid record against relatively poor opposition but trained by Abel Sanchez and entering the ring with very little expectation, the ‘Destroyer’ made a bright start and the expectation on Parker’s shoulders suddenly seemed to weigh him down.
The New Zealander won a very contentious hometown decision, lacked power in his punching but more worryingly, the accuracy that had been so evident in his previous 20 bouts. Those types of performances can occur, but after failing to impress in 12 rounds against regular sparring partner and late stand-in, Razvan Cojanu and then most recently another contentious decision victory and lacklustre display to move to 24-0, this time over Hughie Fury in Manchester, we seem to be left with more questions than answers about what Joseph Parker is capable of.
At 24-0, Tua hadn’t fought for a recognised belt yet but he had laid waste to a future world champion in John Ruiz. He also left the crowd wanting more, scoring 20 KO’s in that time, fifteen of those coming within the first two rounds. And even in defeat further on his career against Ike Ibeabuchi and Lewis, Tua threw 755 and 413 punches respectively. He was a man who always came to win, and who the people wanted to watch.
For the upcoming clash with Joshua, Parker would do well to take notes from the Tua textbook. His chin has shown durability in past bouts, but there’s nothing wrong with incorporating head movement, especially when you’re coming up against someone as heavy handed as AJ. Tua’s bob and weave technique, plus nearly constant throwing gave the likes of Hasim Rahman and Chris Byrd fits, and static fighters like Oleg Maskaev were punished when they couldn’t land the jab. Tua took out Michael Moorer and John Ruiz early through sheer ferociousness and serious cojones to come out firing from the first bell.
‘Static’ is something that’s been labelled at Joshua a few times and if you’re not afraid to put it on the WBA & IBF champion, we’ve seen already that he’s not invincible, even if he is unbeaten.
Ultimately, when comparing the two New Zealanders, the fact may be that in this era, unless Parker achieves complete supremacy; from being a contender, to unifying the division, he may just be judged as a heavyweight in a lesser generation, especially when compared to the late 90’s/early 2000’s.
Sometimes the phrase ‘you can only beat what’s in front of you’ is legit, the problem for the WBO champion is that arguments can be made for him losing 2 of his last 3 fights, and he’s about to step in with a fighter widely regarded as ‘THE’ man of the current heavyweight division.
Defeat this weekend wouldn’t be the end of the world for Joe, it never held Tua back, but the performance on Saturday night could be just as important as the result for Parker’s future at the top of heavyweight boxing.
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