My big hitter can ‘shock the world’, says Parker’s mentor
Trainer famous for victory over Evander Holyfield tells Gareth A Davies his underdog can take belts
Trainer Kevin Barry, the mastermind behind underdog Joseph Parker’s assault on Anthony Joshua this weekend, expects “a complete performance” from his pupil and is utterly convinced that the young New Zealander is about to “shock the world” and return from Cardiff with three world heavyweight titles.
Barry, 58, a fascinating character who employs a blend of old-school boxing ways and cutting-edge sports science, hails from New Zealand’s most famous boxing family, fought Evander Holyfield in controversial circumstances at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 – when he won a silver medal in the light-heavyweight class – and trained the rumbustious David Tua, when he unsuccessfully challenged Lennox Lewis for the world heavyweight crown 18 years ago in Las Vegas. At the time, Tua had knocked out 80 per cent of his victims. That event was, Barry now feels, “a dress rehearsal” for this moment.
“Lennox Lewis was a great fighter, the best of that era, and was far too skilful for Tua. I was also far less experienced,” Barry admitted to The Sunday Telegraph yesterday.
“We fancied our chances of Tua catching Lewis and knocking him out because Tua had uncommon power. Even when you talk about the greatest punchers of all time, you have to have Tua in that group.”
Indeed, Tua had a left hook from hell, but Tua, in Barry’s words, “never showed up that night”.
“There was no Plan B. When he was unable to land his knockout left hook, he was lost. The occasion got to him. He bought into the hype a little bit. I was also far less experienced then myself.”
Parker, he affirmed, is a different character altogether, and the two men have planned for this moment against Joshua for the past two years, after training camps in Las Vegas, where Barry has based himself for almost 20 years.
“The difference here in this fight is that Joshua is no Lennox Lewis. They were both Olympic gold medallists, of course, and you can’t win one of them without a degree of skill. But I don’t think he’s a Lennox Lewis. He might turn out to be better than Lennox Lewis, but right now you can’t compare the two.”
Barry’s own boxing story is intriguing. His father, also Kevin Barry, was awarded an MBE for services to boxing, having been the Olympic and Commonwealth Games coach for a number of years, and trained Barry for the Olympics, where he met Holyfield in the Los Angeles Games semi-final, which was to become highly controversial.
Barry was renowned for his jab and great chin, but received multiple warnings for trying to hold Holyfield and was deducted two points for holding and for repeatedly hitting Holyfield to the back of the head.
When referee Gligorije Novicic yelled break during a flurry of Holyfield punches in the second round, the American continued to punch Barry, knocking him down. Novicic disqualified Holyfield for hitting after the break.
As Barry was knocked out by Holyfield’s illegal punch, under health regulations he was not allowed to box for 28 days and hence pulled out of the final against Yugoslav Anton Josipovic. Barry took the silver medal and became the first boxer in 56 years to win a medal at the Olympic Games for New Zealand. “It took me a couple of years to get over it,” explained Barry.
“I was a very, very proud guy. I knew I was fighting well, but I knew I was coming second against a very good fighter. I walked over and lifted his hand up. I was so proud for my family and my supporters that I’d been guaranteed New Zealand’s first ever medal, but I felt so tainted when I got the silver and he got the bronze.”
“Joe’s met Evander. Early in his career, Evander rang me up and said he was forming this promotional company and would love to do some work with Joe down in the South Pacific. I told him we had a promoter and were on a six-year contract. A couple of times I was sitting in the car with Joe on the way back from training and the phone would ring and it would be Evander. We’d just chat away and Joe would be listening.”
Back to this weekend, and Barry is convinced that Joshua’s style is perfect for his fighter. “Joseph has always looked at his best when fighters come to him. We know Joshua will not be moving backwards.
“That’s another thing that excites us about this fight. We will have him coming on to Parker’s power.
“On paper, this is a very fan-friendly fight. Both these guys have been on a collision course for three years. We have known for a long time that we would be fighting Joshua as long as Joe stayed undefeated and Joshua stayed undefeated.
“There hasn’t been a unification fight in the heavyweight division for seven years. Now we have two of the youngest world champions in heavyweight boxing, both undefeated, clashing for three heavyweight belts.
“This is very exciting for myself as a coach, but it’s very, very exciting for Joseph.
“It’s the challenge he has always needed, fighting someone who many people believe is the best heavyweight in the world.
“It’s a real challenge and a chance for Joseph to find out about himself, to find out how good he is at the highest level. Joe, I believe, has more talent than both Deontay Wilder [the WBC heavyweight champion] and Joshua. I see skill in the gym on a daily basis.
“My challenge to Joe is to give me a complete fight. Just to do what I know he can do.
“If he does that he will be very hard to defeat on March 31.”
Driving force: The rich boxing pedigree of trainer Kevin Barry (right) is behind the rise of Joseph Parker to WBO heavyweight champion