At the age of 25, Joseph – introduced with his honorary Samoan chief name as Lupesoliai La’auli (pr. loo-pay-so-lee-EYE – la-ah-UH-lee) Joseph Parker – is a five-year pro. The WBO heavyweight world champion, he won the title in December, 2016, and has made two successful title defenses. He is the first New Zealand native to win a heavyweight world title.
Joseph was an accomplished amateur before his debut, and represented his homeland in several international competitions.
In his last fight on September 23 in Manchester, England, he defended the WBO title for the second time and won a 12-round majority decision against previously undefeated hometown favorite Hughie Fury.
The bout headlined at Manchester Arena. Fury, the cousin of former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, was very defensive – he moved constantly, threw very few punches, and made a slow-paced fight.
Joseph pressed forward, consistently out-worked him, and landed the harder punches. Fury was cut over his left eye by a clash of heads in the fourth round. The judges scored 118-110, 118-110, 114-114.
In his post-fight interview, Joseph said, “I felt the aggression was good on my side. He was really awkward and his movement was good, but I caught him with the harder punches, I felt.”
Joseph is trained by Las Vegas-based Kevin Barry, also a native of New Zealand and former amateur boxer who won the light heavyweight silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In the semifinal-round fight against Evander Holyfield, Holyfield knocked out Barry with a left hook thrown after the referee had called for a break and was disqualified for the foul. Barry was not allowed to box in the finals under the Olympic’s medical rules, but took the silver medal.
Kevin said, “I started working with Joe for his fourth pro fight in May, 2013. Since we teamed up in March 2013, Joseph probably spends nine months of the year living with me in my house in Las Vegas. He is every bit like a son to me. My wife is like his surrogate mother. I’ve got twin boys and one of them is here at home, he works the corner with me. Him and Joe are like brothers. We have a very special relationship.
“We were once in camp Wladimir Klitschko for three weeks. We did two training camps with Bermane Stiverne before he won the title.
“Joe’s a real gentleman. He’s a lovely guy that’s very humble, very respectful. Everyone that meets him, likes him. That’s the sort of guy he is. That’s why we were able to turn him into such a superstar in New Zealand. It’s a small country, just under five million people. Joe is, at the moment – outside the prime minister – the most recognizable figure in New Zealand. Everyone is behind him.
“I had a gym with two rings and a cage. I closed that gym when I had my reconstructive shoulder surgery and my ankle replacement. I went from 10,000 square feet to about 500 feet – now I have a small private facility where I’ve been training Joe.”
Joseph said, “Most of my time, I’m living in Las Vegas for training and I only go home briefly for fights. After the fight, I sort of stay there for a week, sometimes two weeks, but most of the time I’m in Vegas.
“I train at Kevin’s gym. It’s where we’ve been working ever since we teamed up together. It’s been great for us because it’s nice and private. We can focus on what we have to do, we know we’ve put in the work. We’re pretty happy with the space that we have.”