New Zealand trainer and former fighter Kevin Barry has admitted Joseph Parker initially struggled to get to grips with sparring partners who attempted to replicate the unpredictable style of forthcoming opponent Hughie Fury.
Parker, 25, makes the first defense of the WBO heavyweight title he lifted when defeating Andy Ruiz Jr. in December, having been pitted against number one-rated Fury as part of his mandatory duties.
Barry, whilst pointing out Fury would be nobody’s first choice opponent, is now confident the work Parker is doing in the gym will be able to combat anything the 22 year-old is able to throw at the champion come May 6 at the Vector Arena in Auckland.
“This camp has been very enjoyable. We made it no secret the Andy Ruiz camp wasn’t the best camp for us, but this one has been good,” Barry exclusively told World Boxing News over the phone from camp in Las Vegas this week.
“We are both aware of the challenge in front of us and the awkwardness of the style of Hughie Fury. It’s made Joe really step up and knuckle down. I’ve seen a new intensity in him since becoming champion and it excites me.”
Asked how he’s gone about using sparring partners to mimic Fury, Barry replied: “Hughie is very skillful and very awkward. Let’s be honest, other than Tyson, Hughie brings a totally new look and a style that’s very hard to replicate. He’s very awkward with a lot of movement.
“Because of that, it’s not our ideal style for Joe, but when you’re the heavyweight champion, you have to be a champion of all styles.
“That’s why we have set about our task and have a very good game plan in place that I believe will see a few things from Joe we haven’t seen before – and we need to.
“I’ve heard a lot of talk that these two styles are going to make for a horrible twelve-round fight but we don’t see it like that. From what I’ve seen in the gym, we plan on making this a very exciting fight.
“We are very careful with our sparring partners and the styles they bring. We sit down and make them watch a lot of tape to replicate the style of our opponent, so I’m very pleased with it.
“I’ll be honest, the first couple of weeks of sparring were very awkward for Joe. But since then, everything has clicked with what we’ve been trying to orchestrate and the game plan has really come into place.
“We are very happy at where we are at right now,” he added.
A win for Parker could be the catalyst for a massive encounter with the winner of Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko taking place one week prior to the Fury fight, giving both Barry and the WBO ruler an extra incentive to come out victorious next month.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay