Great news! If you didn’t know already, Izu Ugonoh’s sister Osi has just won Polands Next Top Model. Izu fought on Parker Williams earlier this year and is currently training with Joseph Parker and Kevin Barry.

Izu Ugonoh Interview: The dancing destroyer

By: Bryce Wilson

Its Sunday midday in Auckland at the Pullman hotel and the brassiere/bar is going crazy, well at least moderately crazy as heavyweight contenders Izu Ugonoh and Joseph Parker have just watched underdog Tyson Fury dethrone Wladimir Klitschko to end his decade long reign atop the heavyweight mountain.

At this moment Izu is just a regular fight fan as he turns to me in excitement and remarks, ‘see that’s what I love about boxing, as I tell you anything can happen!’

It is a statement that could well sum up his own career, 2015 has been a big year for the Polish native, fighting 5 times in 12 months, while steadily moving up from 6 to 8 to now 10 round bouts.

He also now owns a highlight reel stoppage of William Quarrie while rounding off a busy 12 months now recently ranked number 15 by the WBO and poised to sign a contract to star in next year’s Polish version of ‘Dancing with the Stars.’
It would definitely be fair to say that in Izu’s case boxing really can take you anywhere.

But before he can unlace his gloves and put up his dancing shoes Izu must first get past Mexican Vicente Sandez on December 5th, a fight that you’d expect a promising heavyweight like Ugonoh to achieve with a minimum of fuss, but you never know as in Izu’s own words, in boxing anything can happen.

ESB: Congratulations on now being ranked number 15 with the WBO. What goes through the mind of a fighter when they finally see themselves ranked by an organization?

Izu: It hasn’t happened by chance and it was a stated goal at the start of the year. Talking to my trainer Kevin (Barry) he is like a professor and everything he said would happen has happened. It’s down to hard work, simple as that. And now we have Polish TV on board.

ESB: Does it also get a little bit addictive seeing your ranking move higher? You now want to see yourself ranked by more than one organization? How hard is it to keep in the moment and stick to one step at a time?

Izu: You know what? I try to look at it in a way that I am capable of seeing myself in these places. You visualize it happening before you actually get there, so that when you get there it seems more natural. But I have to see and believe it first. It is painful to get to these places, (laughs)

ESB: Do you also start to visualize how fights with the guys ahead of you in the rankings may play out?

Izu: Honestly I try not to look ahead at specific people too much. Obviously we watch the fights of all the major heavyweights, we do analyze them, but on the other hand I’ve already had the opportunity to work with some of the top heavyweights in the world, Joe of course, but also Bermaine Stiverne and Wladimir Klitschko, so it makes getting to something like number 15 with the WBO a more natural process.

ESB: And knowing Kevin Barry has taken the likes of David Tua all the way from a contender to fighting for the heavyweight title must give you some confidence as far as building your own career is concerned?

Izu: He certainly knows what he is doing, he is a very hard working and well organized person. Put it this way, I like to surround myself with people who are beasts (laughs) and he is a beast at what he does.

ESB: Vicente Sandez, he may well be the only Mexican heavyweight you ever fight! He fought Charles Martin last time, what do you know about Sandez?

Izu: I saw his fight with Edmund Gerber and we have developed a fairly simple strategy for this fight. One that we have practiced many times.

ESB: What technical elements are you wanting to develop in your game?

Izu: The right hand will always be there but the jab, there is so much that can flow off that. I like to throw combinations, the left hook is a nice punch I like to land. I’ve been working hard on my body shots, I have to commit to those more. The tougher the opponents will get the more strategic I am going to have to be, moving forward.

ESB: We’ve talked a lot about relaxation in the past. Do you find that coming more naturally now due to the amount of time you’ve spent working with Kevin?

IZU: Yeah that’s one part, but I’m now so much more relaxed in my day-to-day life. I’m not putting so much pressure on myself these days, I’ve found my way.

ESB: And all the hard work you’ve put in this year is leading to you potentially headlining your own shows in Poland next year?

Izu: It’s going to be easier for me, I’ve been supportive of Joe, I’m happy for him but at the same time I’ve been putting in all this hard work for exactly these types of opportunities for myself as well.

ESB: Such as ‘Dancing with the Stars?’

Izu: I’m not 100% sure of the schedule right now because all I’m concentrating on is my next fight. But let me tell you this, we as a team we will put a very detailed schedule in place to work around it. It is huge show in Poland and doors will open from it. That is the reality.

ESB: Now I know your sister won ‘Poland’s next Top Model.’ Has she thrown out the challenge yet for you to win your show, after all the family is currently sitting at 100% success rate for winning reality shows?

Izu: No none of that. Yes I am competitive but it is more about having fun. The way I look at it the more I have fun the longer I will stay in the competition.

ESB: Which is kind of a strategy in itself?

Izu: (Laughs) Yeah OK you got me there.

ESB: I’m sure you know the old maxim of ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it.’ So in a sense are you and Kevin a little worried about changing what has been a winning formula or is the opportunity of the dancing show just too good to pass up as far as getting your name recognized goes?

Izu: No I’m not worried simply because Kevin is so good at planning. I’m excited more than anything. Training for boxing will remain in Vegas and I will be following a strict workout and diet regimen while I’m on the show.

ESB: You know Floyd Mayweather was on it in America but he didn’t win. So you have the chance of doing something that he couldn’t.

Izu: Let me tell you one thing, the question is what is the purpose? What is the goal of going on this show? To increase my profile, this is why it’s being done.

ESB: But you definitely want to keep the momentum you’ve currently got going with your boxing career?

Izu: Yes exactly, Kevin and I will sit down and work out a schedule that will mean I can continue to fight. I hope to fight in Poland, do the dancing show and then maybe end next year with a big fight in Poland.

ESB: So you’ll be mainly based in Poland next year?

Izu: Well yeah, that is what I think so far but as you know things can change quickly and I don’t like to predict too much. But remember what I said to you before at the start of the year, we’ll be having a totally different conversation at the end of the year. We set the goals to move up to 8 and 10 round fights, we achieved that. We wanted to be ranked and we have achieved that and now my fights are being shown in Poland so we have achieved that. We’re in a good place right now.

And after looking at the year Izu has had it would be hard to argue with him. If 2015 got the ball rolling for him expect 2016 to be very much his breakthrough year as he looks to emulate fellow stable mate Joseph Parker and break into the top 15 of several other ranking organizations. And don’t be surprised if the ultra competitive Izu also wins a certain dancing competition in Poland next year as well. After all, it’s in the family DNA.

Izu Ugonoh 14(11)-0 faces Vicente Sandez 15(10)-5 at Claudelands Arena, Hamilton on December 5th.

Izu Ugonoh Interview: It all starts now

by Bryce Wilson

Its funny how one big punch can change a career, either positively or negatively,

especially in this brave new world of social media where ‘going viral’ can make or

break a career. For undefeated Polish heavyweight Izu Ugonoh it was an experience

in the positive providing his career with a well earned bump after a year of graft and

hard work with new trainer Kevin Barry.

Just over two months ago Ugonoh ended his 13th professional fight against William Quarrie with a right hand so spectacular it blasted Quarrie out of the ring and onto the dinner plate of a ringside spectator.

So stunning was it in its execution that it went viral in a matter of hours and was subsequently viewed a staggering 2.8 million times, around the world. A great advert for an up-and-coming fighter. And although in Ugonoh’s own words he was only doing what he should’ve done against a fighter with much less ability while Ugonoh now stands on the cusp of being ranked with at least one sanctioning organization.

It will be just reward for the hardworking heavyweight who is not only in his 4th fight of the year but has also served as one of the chief sparring partners for current and former world champions Wladimir Klitschko and Bermane Stiverne respectively.

The hard work isn’t just paying off with a potential rise in rankings and movement in his career but also in Izu’s demeanour. Twelve months on from our first meeting I encounter a vastly relaxed fighter, confident in the work he is doing and the direction he is heading in. We start by discussing the knock out of William Quarrie and how it has opened some doors for him.

‘Altogether it was around 2.8 million views. I got messages in Spanish, Russian and stuff, people were posting it up. ‘

Izu at the same time remains realistic, emphasising that the William Quarrie’s of the world should be put away convincingly by a far more talented opponent and to that point he was merely doing his job. Regardless of quality, heavyweight, despite the lackadaisical landscape of the past decade, still remains one of boxings glamour divisions and this knockout has certainly opened some doors. ‘It couldn’t have worked out better for me.

It’s the type of fight that could pass by unnoticed, y’know I’m in New Zealand fighting on an undercard, but it didn’t. As long as you do your work and do your part strange things can happen.’

What was most pleasing for Ugonoh was the way the right hand was set up; a combination that he had spent many hours working on in the gym with Kevin Barry. If anything it was an affirmation that the relationship is working well and bringing results.

‘It was our fourth fight together and everything is clicking very well and I keep getting better.’

The reaction to the fight was so good in Poland that his next fight is now being televised there, a situation that certainly pleases Ugonoh, with boxing going through a particularly buoyant period in his home country. With Polish fighters performing well at light, cruiser and heavyweight, it has become a lucrative market and he is keen to enter his name into the mix. Should he get through the year undefeated, with one more potential fight possibly scheduled in New Zealand on December 5th, a fight in his native Poland looms large for 2016.

We also briefly discuss what has perhaps been Izu’s toughest opponent to date, the 6 foot 10 inch giant and evergreen veteran Julius Long whom he fought in June of this year. It was a fight that saw Izu easily dominate Long dropping him midway through the fight and almost finishing in the 8th round to cruise to a handy unanimous decision. Just over two months later Julius Long travelled over to Australia at short notice and took several rounds off the highly ranked Australian Lucas Browne. I ask Izu if his arguably better performance against Long than the more highly ranked Browne gives him cause for optimism moving forward.

‘Like you say everything is matter of perspective and now I have gained a different perspective over the past year, especially seeing how Long performed against Browne. ‘

Izu’s next assignment is Ibrahim Labaran for the interim WBA Oceania and WBO African heavyweight titles. In a sport awash with belts and straps I ask Izu from the fighter’s view as to how these types of titles can actually help a fighter’s career.

‘You need to get used to the belts, you need to get used to fighting for some sort of title at stake. It’s how you learn to cope with pressure. It also helps with rankings and it becomes a mental thing. Plus it has helped with getting my fight televised in Poland, and it does help with securing future opponents.’

Talking about Labaran, Izu remains consistent as he always has when discussing future opponents: It’s a case of not what can they do to you but what you can do to them.

‘I looked at him a little bit, he has a nice jab for instance but then I focussed more on what it is I have to do, on what my game plan is.’

Preparation for this fight has been meticulous with Ugonoh declaring this as his best camp yet, something that is easily understandable when you consider that he has had world class sparring on tap with both with stable mate Joseph Parker as well as former world champion Bermane Stiverne providing him with some tough work.

Respectfully towards Stiverne he is careful not to reveal too much other than to say he’s sure Stiverne will have noticed a big improvement in him from when they first sparred nearly a year ago. That is some statement considering those who were around the Vegas gyms at the time and witnessed his work with Stiverne came away very impressed with the Polish fighter’s work.

Should Ugonoh get past Labaran as expected it is more than likely that he will find himself with a ranking with at least one major sanctioning body. As Kevin Barry remarks to me as training is wrapping up, ‘for Izu this is where it all starts. What is happening now and moving forward is a payoff for what we have been working on for the past year.’ Looking at the way things are progressing and the confidence emanating from their camp it’s not difficult to believe him.

Izu Ugonoh 13(10)-0 faces Ibrahim Labaran 13(11)-3 at Trusts Arena, Auckland on October 15th

Watch: Brutal knockout on Parker undercard
(Please click link above to watch video)

The fans came to see Joseph Parker dominate Bowie Tupou, but what they didn't

expect was one of the knockouts of the year taking place on his undercard.

Polish boxer Izu Ugonoh sent Stadium Southland into ecstasy when a massive right hook sent opponent Will Quarrie tumbling out of the ring, landing on the ringside table of the fight judges. The 27-year-old of Nigerian descent began his boxing career in 2010, and was a sparring partner for Parker in the lead-up to the Kiwi's fight with Tupou.

He is a highly-touted riser in the boxing community, and you can see why as he delivers a powerful punch which decks Quarrie.

Parker wasn't too shabby himself, taking just 63 seconds to sit down Tupou with a knockout of his own.

- NZ Herald

Izu Ugonoh Interview: Concluding his revision ahead of the big test

By Bryce Wilson: It is just over 8 months ago when unbeaten Heavyweight contender Izu Ugonoh entered into an unusual arrangement living and training with Coach Kevin Barry, his family, as well as his other fast rising protégé Joseph Parker. It has been a hectic time, Ugonoh becoming a regular fixture on the undercard of Parker’s fight while beginning to chart his own way through the ranks of the division.

Coming into the program over a year later than Parker, trainer Kevin Barry has been carefully moving the talented Ugonoh at a different pace, stepping him up to face the unique frame that is the six foot nine inches proposition, Julius Long.

Having passed the test of his first 8 round fight well, coming on strong down the stretch, Izu is now facing the lesser known William Quarrie before looking to take a significant step up in the fight after, currently scheduled for October.

Boxing News: Thinking about your last opponent Julius Long, you’ve had a few weeks now to digest that fight. That fight provided you a lot of good things. It gave you rounds, plus you had to deal with his size and his veteran tricks, how do you rate your performance?

Izu: I feel that I could have done better, stayed a little bit more calm, not get quite so hot headed. He’s a big guy, his weight, he’s tall!

Boxing News: What do you feel you did well?

Izu: I hurt him a couple of times which was good but I feel if I had been a little bit more relaxed I could have gotten off some shots he might not have been expecting.

Boxing News: Do you think that it was because your prompters were forced to switch your opponent at short notice, or was it his experience or was it just one of those nights?

Izu: You know I honestly don’t know, (laughs) it was what it was.

Boxing News: You did go the full 8 rounds though which must have been pleasing, passing the mental test as well as the physical one?

Izu: Yes absolutely. In the 8th round I relaxed and starting throwing more punches. But I think the mental test is the most important part.

Boxing News: I can’t believe you ever made Cruiserweight to be honest with you. Considering you’ve moved up from a division below, to put him down with a really hard shot, you must be pleased with the way your power has translated up to heavyweight?

Izu: Yes for sure, I absolutely am. In my cruiserweight fights I was just so tired. I was losing my muscle because I didn’t have any fat to burn off and it made me way more tired.

Boxing News: I understand you’ve been doing a lot more bodyweight training?

Izu: Yeah, the strength training has been going really well. We don’t use a lot of bars and stuff like that which can sometimes stiffen you up a little bit and cause more injuries.

Boxing News: Power is slightly different from strength isn’t it? You are going to face guys that are bigger than you, that want to maul you in clinches and lean on you. Strength is important for being able to negate these types of things?

Izu: Yeah body strength is really important for that type of thing.

Boxing News: Your next opponent William Quarrie, I guess it comes as no surprise, that he is a smaller guy than Long?

Izu: Well he’s my height and I know he is a tough guy. This is my first 10 rounder.

Boxing News: Without overlooking Quarrie, your coach Kevin Barry has mentioned to me that should you get past him you are looking at your next fight as the ‘step-up fight’ to really give yourself a big test.

Izu: Yes that is what we are looking at. And I’m glad it is this way because first I get to go home (to Poland) for a holiday to see my family, I have been away for 8 months and it does get hard. But honestly the task for me right now is to stay focused, get the job done against Quarrie and then I get to go home.

Boxing News: I guess the trick is to make sure that you haven’t already got ‘one foot on the plane’ as the saying goes.

Izu: Correct. You can’t do that. It’s a fight and all that I know is that I have to get the job done. I wanna stick to the plan, I know what needs to be done, I’ve trained hard and I think that this training camp was even harder than the last one.

Boxing News: I know your training partner Joseph (Parker) has been saying that each camp has been getting better and better. I guess you would endorse this as well?

Izu: This one was even harder; I was like ‘geez, how hard does it get?’ (Laughs) The weather in Las Vegas was extreme, but what it does give me going into a fight is the confidence to know that whatever happens I can handle it. Whatever comes my way I’m prepared. When you train to the point where you feel like dying but you don’t actually die (smiles) that means that y’know , you’re ready.

Boxing News: Are we edging closer to a fight in Poland? I know we often talk about it.

Izu: Yes we have had some initial discussions, but for now we are happy to stick to the game plan we have in place until the end of the year. But I feel like I’m getting closer to getting a good fight in Poland,

Boxing News: Obviously Szpilka is a big name over there……..

Izu: Yes definitely him sometime in the future. You also have Marius Wach who fought Klitschko and there are a few others. Good Polish heavyweights. No matter if I fight a Polish heavyweight or someone else I am going to step up.

Boxing News: Where does boxing rank on the scale of interest in Poland?

Izu: Well it’s getting bigger and bigger. The types of fights you are talking about you could see a crowd of ten or fifteen thousand. Szpilka for instance is very well known, he’s made a big name for himself. He’s was someone that was with in Warsaw training together for 3 years, so I know him, he’s a friend of mine.

Boxing News: How does that go in boxing because I know you’ve also got a strong friendship with Joseph Parker. But in boxing anything goes, friendship is friendship and business is business right?

Izu: Absolutely. In life generally there are not many people that I don’t like. It is what it is, it’s a part of the sport, and it’s a part of the game.

Boxing News: I know you are concentrated on this fight but you and Kevin are both very plan oriented so looking ahead to next year you have some big stuff planned?

Izu: There are a lot of things that can happen next year, but for me it is just about taking one step at a time because this is boxing. But I really believe lots of good things can happen next year and can play out nicely, whether it’s fighting in America or Poland and I’m just having my first 10 rounder. Everything looks good for the future.

Izu Ugonoh 12(9)-0 faces William Quarrie 5(2)-3 at Stadium Southland, Invercargill on August 1st.

Izu Ugonoh Interview: Talking everything boxing from Tyson to Mayweather and taking the next step

by Bryce Wilson: Undefeated Polish heavyweight 11(9)-0 is soon headed down under with fellow stable mate Joseph Parker to fight Junior Pati 10(6)-21 on Parker’s undercard taking place on June 13th in Palmerston North, New Zealand.

It has been an interesting 12 months for Izu, transitioning from life as a former professional kick boxer to the paid ranks of boxing. In a relatively unique situation Izu has joined forces with Kevin Barry who now has not one but two up-and-coming heavyweights on his hands. At first glance this may seem like a conflict of interest for all involved but on closer inspection it makes perfect sense. Izu and Joseph both regularly mention how hard they push each other in gruelling training sessions and most importantly it means they have quality sparring on tap.

On the training front Izu has just returned from a tough camp and the steepest of steep learning curves that comes from serving as one of Wladimir Klitschko’s chief sparring partners.

We sat down to get his thoughts on that camp, how he felt Jennings performed against Wladimir, what if any new tricks and tips he picked up from working with the champion and what he hopes to achieve in the rest of the year.

BN: You are due to fight Junior Pati; this is going to be your first 8 rounder. Do you want rounds or do you want a knockout?

Izu: That’s an in interesting question. I want to be ready for 8 rounds, in fact I know I’m ready for 10 rounds. But if the fight goes quick it goes quick. This is more about me knowing I’m mentally ready to fight 8 rounds.

BN: Rounds are good but on the other hand knockouts are what make people sit up and take notice.

Izu: It’s not something you can plan. I’ll be ready for an 8 round fight, but we’ve been working so hard on strategy, technique and sparring lots of rounds with Joseph (Parker) and going very hard.

BN: Have you seen any tape on Pati?

IU: Yes we’ve seen him a couple of times, I think Joe may have even sparred him. At 5 foot 11 what can he do? It’s all about controlling the distance. Maybe he’ll be jumping in trying to swing some shots but that’s about the only option he has. He can’t box me from the outside. You need to know what to do with short fighters.

BN: I it’s something Kevin Barry likes to drill into his fighters, controlling the distance and throwing hard shots to the body.

Izu: Well if you control the distance you control the fight. Even if you are the same size as your opponent as long as you control the distance you can go in when you want to and you go out when you want to and that’s how you get things done. It makes things so much easier.

BN: Does that also mean being on the front foot as often as possible? And does Kevin like you to get your shots off before your opponent, so not so much a countering style but more offense based?

Izu: Yeah once again it’s all about taking control, we don’t wait. Be first, always be first, which can little get bit rough at times when me and Joe get in the ring (laughs.) It makes the sparring a bit more difficult but the fights much easier

BN: Just going back a moment to the end of that training camp with Klitschko and I remember you said something g really interesting. You said Klitschko could come in and knock out Jennings in 4 or 5 rounds but you also said that Jennings could surprise people and put in a real effort. What was your take on that having watched the fight?

Izu: Y’know people were so convinced that Klitschko was gonna take him out in 5 or 6 rounds but I actually believed that while Jennings wasn’t going to win he was going to give it a decent effort. You’ve got to believe in yourself and if you do so you give yourself a chance to win.

BN: At times he made Wlad look human.

Izu: Everyone out there is beatable. Top 10, top 5, top 3. Everyone. It’s about keeping your mind open that anything is possible.

BN: Are you guys swimming now? And is that something you took away from the Klitschko camp or were you thinking about doing it for a while?

Izu: Yes we have started swimming and I wouldn’t lie to you it was at the Klitschko camp that we started thinking about it.

BN: I saw an interesting interview with Alex Ariza once and he said he liked his fighters swimming because it helps them regulate their breath when their bodies are under stress during a fight.

Izu: You know what? You can’t fake it in water, unless you want to drink water or drown! Breathing becomes the better way to help your swimming. We would have to do so much more roadwork to make the same impact.

BN: And you’ve noticed the benefits when you’re boxing in the afternoon after swimming in the morning?

Izu: Yes, we see it from day to day. It’s also good just to change up things. We’re just giving it a try. At the moment the goal is swimming at the Olympics 2016 (laughs.)

BN: Joseph (Parker) mentioned that you guys ran into Tyson at the pool other day.

Izu: Yeah it was great. We had just finished our workout and were sitting down for a smoothie and I turned to Joe and said ‘Joe there’s Mike Tyson.’

BN: Does he still have that kind of charisma, that aura?

IU: For sure, there is something about him. On one hand he doesn’t want to be noticed but you still sense the power.

BN: I know you were able to attend the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight. What was your take on the fight?

Izu: I thought the fight was interesting but I wasn’t surprised about anything. Mayweather showed the kind of great champion that he is and it’s also a lot to do with the boxing IQ. Manny is a great fighter basing things on his instincts but Floyd has so much more, his IQ is so high. He knows when to steal rounds, when to step it up, when to go in. That’s a different level.

BN: It’s quite interesting that you make the distinction between boxing instinct and boxing IQ. They’re different things aren’t they?

Izu: Yeah they are. Under instinct you do certain things and that’s good, there is a lot of good about it but you can’t adjust as much. You can’t change your game plan from round to round. But I believe at the highest level it is the fighter with the boxing IQ that will win and I think that Lennox (Lewis) was also a fighter like that
BN: Getting back to your next fight in June, I know Kevin talks a lot about setting goals and you also talk a lot about setting goals. What are some specific goals for the rest of the year?

IU: I want to step up and fight 10 rounds, and that is where I can take off from. Endurance, control and discipline.

BN: Do you have a set number of fights barring injury after June?

IU: Yes, we’d like 2 more fights. Two 10 round fights after June.

BN: I guess for you coming out of 2 camps sparring with world champions in Stiverne and Klitschko plus the regular sparring with Joseph that now gives you the confidence and belief to start stepping it up?

IU: Yes and yes I am. It just doesn’t happen overnight but I’m sure in a couple of months we’ll be having a totally different conversation. All this work has been building up my mental strength and my confidence at the same time. And working with Joseph on an everyday basis there is no way that it isn’t going to make me better and better but I’m also on my own path.

BN: And maybe next year a fight in Poland?

IU: Yeah, that’s very possible, very possible and when you are ready then the opportunity will present itself. Timing is everything.

BN: Well I think with yourself, Joe and Jeff Horn fighting it should be a very interesting card in June and I’m sure there will be some knockouts.

IU: Hey we’ll try to bring the show!

Izu Ugonoh 11(9)-0 faces Junior Pati 10(6)-21-1 at Arena Manawatu, Palmerston North on June 13th. You can follow Izu on his instagram:

Interview: Undefeated heavyweight Izu Ugonoh discusses being in camp with Wladimir Klitschko

Interview by Bryce Wilson: We caught up with undefeated Polish Heavyweight ( 11-0, 9 KO’s) prospect Izu Ugonoh to have a chat with him about what it was like to spar with the man in the heavyweight division WBA, IBF and WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Having had an opportunity to observe the champion in close quarters we asked Izu what it is he thinks is so special about Wladimir, what he learned from the experience and what he thinks the likely result against Jennings will be.

Boxing News: How many rounds you sparred with Wlad so far?

Izu: I’ve done 4 sessions so far, so 12 rounds.

Boxing News: How have you found it intensity wise, the size of the guy, his power?

Izu: It’s been great. From one side it’s been very mentally challenging being in the ring with him and its great experience seeing him work out. Not sparring with him but also how he prepares. Now I see why he’s left so many others behind, he’s just got that amazing work ethic.

Boxing News: He looks in incredible shape.

Izu: He’s looks like he’s always in shape. You can tell with the intensity that he trains he‘s not taking anything for granted. I believe he works harder than most up-and-coming fighters.

Boxing News: That’s interesting because I know you sparred a couple of times with Stiverne who was a world champ, what’s the major difference you’ve noticed between the two camps?

Izu: I couldn’t even compare it. Klitschko is in a class by himself. And it’s not all because of his size and his skills that’s just only one part of it.

Boxing News: You’ve obviously been giving him some decent work as I know they have sent a couple of sparring partners home?

Izu: I’ve been in the ring with him and as everyone he makes mistakes too, he is human. My role here is to show him the openings and give him the best work I can. Honestly not everyone can take the pressure, in fact I would honestly say that most people can’t (laughs.)

Boxing News: I understand he has a reputation of going very hard at his sparring partners?

Izu: I would say, as much as I can say (laughs) if you are a challenge to him he will break you down and he’s like that with everyone. He’s definitely been going hard.

Boxing News: So it’s safe to assume he’s a competitive guy in sparring as well as fighting?

Izu: Definitely, this is the first time I can say that I’ve been in sparring where it doesn’t feel different from a fight situation. It’s an experience that can build up your mental toughness or it can make you want to quit your sport. It all depends on how you take it. I’m doing better and better with each sparring. I’m here helping the champ but at the same time this is a great opportunity to learn because this guy is going out a legend. Each time he tries to take my head off I see it as a compliment (laughs)

There is no-one out there that is like Wladimir Klitschko, it is what it is. I would say a lot of people are afraid to spar him, let alone fight him. But what I also say, with all due respect, that in this fighting game if you don’t believe and don’t take chances you can never win, it’s as simple as that.

Boxing News: What is it like to face that jab?

Izu: You’d be surprised you think he’s far away but then he’s not! (Laughing.)

Boxing News: So you’ve got to learn how to measure distance fast?!

Izu: Yes it’s something you need to figure out ASAP if you don’t wanna get hurt. If you want to land your punches you have to be very disciplined, focussed, unless you just want to run around the ring doing nothing and get paid.

Boxing News: Has there been anything that has surprised you?

Izu: His endurance, amazing endurance he’s very relaxed under pressure, but that’s what makes him the champ and his determination. He’s so determined in every session, he’s focussed, determined. His work ethic is very intense and something that I’ve never seen before. A lot of people that weigh -in around 110 Kg’s its very rare to see that kind of muscle structure. And that’s where the power comes from.

Boxing News: Any tips or tricks you’ve picked up?

Izu: The main thing is he’s perfected his style. The message that sends to me as a young fighter is use what you’ve got. Don’t look for the things that don’t work for you. You need to find out what works for you and just perfect it.

Boxing News: Now you’ve sparred with him have you got a prediction for him and Jennings?

Izu: I just feel like he’s on another level. It may be that he comes in and knocks out Jennings easily in 4 or 5 rounds. But why I really love boxing is the obvious is not always how it is. As long as you make an effort and believe then you have a chance. Pulev did try but how many people over the last couple of years have we seen actually try with Klitschko?

Boxing News: So you yourself will be fighting in June? Do you hope to have an opponent announced soon?

Izu: Yeah I believe so and it will be a step up for me. There is no point sparring the world champion and top 10 fighters like Joseph (Parker) and then not looking to step it up. I’m looking forward to doing that.

We also look forward to seeing Izu fight in June and seeing if Wladimir’s intensity in sparring translates into a dominate performance against Bryant Jennings on April the 25th.

Interview: Izu Ugonoh on the success of his unusual working arrangement and his career ahead

By Bryce Wilson

It is rare to see 2 contenders fighting in the same division being coached by the same trainer at the same time. But that is exactly where unbeaten Polish heavyweight Izu Ugonoh finds himself ahead of his fight with Thomas Peato at Auckland’s Vodafone Arena on Thursday night.

In an old school tradition echoing some past greats like Cus D’Amato and Manny Steward, Coach Kevin Barry has both protégés Joseph Parker and Izu Ugonoh not just training with him but also living under his roof. ‘The only nightclub they see is the one in my living room’ quips Kevin of the situation.

It is borne from the idea that when it comes to the 5am training runs and the brutal gym sessions it is better working environment for Joseph and Izu to endure them together, working as a team. It also means an improved quality of sparring, Kevin also adding that ‘due to the very high respect they have for each other the sparring is always very intense and competitive.’

I sit down with Izu after a light workout at their Auckland hotel to elicit his thoughts on this fairly unique situation, what he hopes to achieve in his career for 2015 as well as his upcoming sparring sessions with Wladimir Klitschko and of course his fight on Thursday.

ESB: So you are fighting Thomas Peato. He is kind of unknown and he hasn’t fought a heap, I assume this fight is more important for you and Kevin to keep building the chemistry between you?

Izu: Yes. I have a job to do, I can’t be so much concerned about my opponent. I just have to show that I am capable and can execute the game plan. I think I’m on the right path, I just need to be patient.

ESB: And the advantages of having quality sparring with Joseph, day and day out?

Izu: Everything is high quality. The hard work we’re doing it’s so much easier doing it together.

ESB: At the minute he (Joseph) is kind of the star of the show and you are flying under the radar a little bit. Are you comfortable with that?

Izu: Honestly, like I said earlier I’m patient. I have high ambitions, but this is where I’m at right now. I’m just focusing on the work and getting better and better.

ESB: Is this year setting up perhaps for next year, will next year be your ‘moving’ year?

Izu: I don’t think there is a need for me to speak too much about it. I think it’s more about the fights that I make and by the end of the year I’m going to be a totally different fighter. I just need to give it time.

ESB: You’re here in NZ and you live and train in America but with your former kickboxing career plus your sister having recently won Poland’s Next Top Model competition it’s fair to say your family is fairly well known back home. Any plans to fight back there (Poland) and expand your fan base?

Izu: Yeah, I can’t say too much now but we’ve got plans. Poland is a big country and I would love to be on Polish TV with my fights and bring it back home.

ESB: I’ve read some reports and I know the etiquette is you don’t say too much about what went on in sparring, but the word that’s come out is that when you were sparring with Stiverne for his defence against Wilder you more than held your own against him. For a young up and coming fighter that must be encouraging?

Izu: Yes it was, for me honestly it built my trust in working with Kevin, that things worked so well. It made me feel very good and excited for the future. I also sparred him (Stiverne) half a year earlier before the fight with Arreola and I’m sure he noticed a big difference.

ESB: You’re also going over to spar with Klitschko in April. Have you ever been in the same room as him?

Izu: He’s a big guy, a powerful guy.

ESB: Will he be the biggest guy you’ve faced so far in either fighting or sparring?

Izu: Let me put it this way, as a kick boxer while amateur I went to Holland and sparred the best in the world, guys like Alistair Overeem and I did well. All I tried to do was bring it to them and it toughened me up, so I’m more excited for this opportunity than anything. You should want to fight and spar the best, that’s how I look at it.

Izu will fight Thomas Peato at Vodafone Vodafone Events Centre on Thursday March 5th, Auckland, New Zealand.

Heavyweight Watch: Izuagbe Ugonoh
By Eugene Carnachan | February 14, 2015

Kevin Barry is currently coaching Las Vegas based (by way of New Zealand) heavyweight prospect Joseph Parker. However Joseph Parker isn’t the only talented heavyweight Barry is training, he also has 28 year old Polish heavyweight Izuagbe Ugonoh (10-0-0) on his training books, and he thinks Ugonoh like Parker has the potential to be a world class heavyweight.

Ugonoh has been refining his skills sparring the likes of Bermane Stiverne, and later this year he will accompany Parker and Barry to spar with heavyweight King pin Vladimir Klitschko as Klitschko’s prepares for his April bout with challenger Bryant Jennings. Kevin Barry talks about how he came across Ugonoh and his development as a fighter.

Tell us about Izuagbe Ugonoh the young heavy you’re now training and how he came to be in your gym?

Kenny Adams whose a well-respected coach, he’s trained a bunch of world champions, he goes right back, he was the Olympic amateur coach, he rings me and tells me he’s got this African boy in the gym, I know you’ve got a good heavyweight boy (Joseph Parker) that’s the world around town, would you be interested in some sparring.

Your first impressions of Izu?

He trained hard and gave Joe a hell of a spar. I could immediately see that he was a good athlete. I said to Joe this guy can really fight. We need to get some more of this.
I found out that he was born in Poland, from Nigerian parents and he was a former world kickboxing champion.

What happened next?

He (Izu) has a big falling out with his trainer and Joe and I were pretty much seeing it happening in front of us. Joe said I should talk to him about coming to train with us and I was like really. Just a measure of the type of kid Joe is, a lot of fighters get very territorial, especially with fighters in their own weight division.

You asked him to come and train with you and Joe?

Coincidentally William Miller the manager of Izu calls me up and he said would I be interested in doing a session with Izu and I said sure. So I did that, trained him for an hour, Bill (William Miller) just sat there, watched and never said a word.

How did that session go?

I coach with passion and intensity, I’m wasn’t pussy footing around with him. I start throwing jabs at him, explaining that you turn your knuckles over, driving them into the side of the guy’s head while you’re making this angle, helps open up his temple. He listened attentively, his eyes never left me and I liked that. Bill asked me to take him on full time.

Easy decision to make to start coaching him?

A decision I had to think through as talented as he was, there was no way I was just going to say yes, I needed to talk to my wife and Joe. There is a fine balance as a trainer and if the chemistry isn’t right it can really upset the apple cart.

How did the chat with Joe go?

I sat down with Joe and said you’re up at 5.30 every morning running five miles, where in the gym we do our boxing session at 11 O clock, we do strength and conditioning at 5 O Clock at night, we’ve got the opportunity to have someone do that with you, plus the added bonus of quality sparring on tap for you both. Joe didn’t even blink an eye, he got it and accepted it.

How is Izu developing?

Izu is a great athlete, a work in progress as a boxer, it’s early days, months not years, he’s a guy whose spent years and years and years as a kick boxer, he stands to straight up, I needed to teach him to sit down on his punches and that has being the biggest developmental thing for him.

What else are you working on with him?

I’m also teaching him to work up and down the body, when he arrived here he never had any form of a body attack at all, his stance through his kick boxing left a number of gaps down the centre, gaps which I’ve closed up now.

What do you have in store for 2015 for Izu?

I actually think that this young man will have a break out year in 2015. He is fighting a six rounder in Auckland on Joes undercard on March 5, he’ll fight and eight rounder in May, he’ll fight his first 10 rounder in July and once we start fighting 10 rounder’s I’ll be able to pick him up a regional title by the end of the year. So yeah a big year ahead for Izo.

Good place to be as a coach?

In Izu I have one hell of an athlete and that goes hand in hand with the Joe Parker who is one hell of an athlete, so at the moment I think I’ve got a fantastic 1-2 punch that could really make some noise in the heavyweight division.

Interview: ESB catches up with Bermane Stiverne sparring partner Izu Ugonoh

By Bryce Wilson

This Saturday at the MGM, Las Vegas finds boxing in an unusual place that it hasn’t occupied in quite some time, a heavyweight title fight that has the fans talking and polarizing opinion. Practically every man and his dog has had a crack at calling the outcome for this fight so we thought we’d get some feedback from someone close to the action, undefeated Polish heavyweight Izu Ugonoh (10-0, 8KO’s.) Izu has served as one of Bermane Stiverne’s chief sparring partners for this fight and ESB took the opportunity to ask him how the camp has gone for Bermane and who he thinks will win the fight and why. ESB: Having sparred previously with Bermane have you noticed anything different in this camp, more intensity etc?Izu: Bermane is in a very good shape, as he was before the fight with Chris Arreola. The only difference is that styles make the fight and then preparing accordingly. ESB: This time Bermane is conducting his camp as a defending champion rather than a contender, have you noticed a change in his demeanour/attitude?Izu: Well I think that now that he holds the belt he has even more confidence in his capabilities. He seems to know exactly the game plan he wants to execute against Deontay Wilder.ESB: Bermane seems like a pretty laid back guy. Does that translate in sparring or does he step it up a notch?Izu: Bermane has his way of fighting that suits him, at times he might look laid back but really he is setting you up for a big counter punch. He will also bring it to you every now and then, so don’t be fooled.

ESB: Power wise we have seen him do damage before, how hard has he been hitting in this camp? Izu: I think the better question is how well can Wilder take his punch?ESB: This is a fight which seems to have really polarized the boxing community. The common consensus seems to be either Wilder early or Stiverne late. Do you have an opinion on this? Izu: Well no one has seen Wilder win a fight on points so I guess a knockout is his only option. Whereas Stiverne can win in both ways therefore he is my favourite for this fightESB: One outcome that hasn’t been raised quite so much is Stiverne by early KO. Do you think this is a possibility? Izu: That’s what I like about boxing, there is always that possibility! ESB: For an up and coming fighter such as yourself how valuable is it to get that kind of work from the champion? Izu: The experience is priceless to me. Not only is Bermane Stiverne a smart boxer but he can punch too so I had to stay focused at all times. I think I’ve learned a lot and gave the champ some good rounds. I will definitely be more confident walking into my fights this yearESB: Now that camp has ended are you hoping to fight soon, when is the plan to see you in the ring next? Izu: I’m looking forward to put in some work the next couple of weeks. After that I will be ready to fight in March.We thank Izu for his time and look forward to seeing if his prediction proves correct. Roll on Saturday, and while many fans may disagree on whom wins I think most do agree that this is probably going to end by knockout. Do you like the early power of Wilder or the sneakier counter punching of Stiverne coming on strong down the stretch? Either way it should be a good ‘un for as long as it lasts.

Papuni strikes as Ugonoh debuts well in AK


Reece Papuni stunned Sam Rapira with three brutal knockdowns to record a vicious fourth round TKO and put New Zealand's light heavyweight division on notice tonight. Christchurch's Papuni was on fire from the opening bell and did not let up to claim the New Zealand National Boxing Federation title on Joseph Parker's undercard in Auckland. Backed by the confidence he had beaten Rapira in four of their five previous amateur fights, Papuni was in control throughout. Papuni more than lived up to his nickname "lightening" with a vicious right hand that caught Rapira flush in the third round. Rapira's eyes close almost immediately; his feet went out from under him and he hit the canvas hard. He never recovered. Twice more in the fourth round Papuni exposed Rapira's alarming defensive weakness with two more lethal right hands. With nine seconds left in the fourth round, the fight was finished. Clearly, Papuni's training with Anthony Mundine paid off as he handed New Plymouth's Rapira the first loss of his nine fight pro career and improved his record to 7-0. The three-time amateur champion is now expected to take on undefeated Aucklander Nik Charalampous, who earlier in the night took his record to 9-0 with a unanimous decision win over Waikato's Andy Robinson, on the Fight For Life promotion in Hamilton in December. The winner of that brawl may well pick up a contract from promoters Duco Events and, eventually, eye a fight with leading Kiwi light heavyweight Robbie Berridge (24-2) who is coming off a devastating fifth round knockout against Russian Vasily Lepikhin in August. Earlier in the night, Lower Hutt's super middleweight Joe Blackbourn easily disposed of debut fighter Mike Junior Kapi with a crushing second round TKO. The 28-year-old improved his undefeated pro record to 7-0 and, with three impressive wins behind him already this year, will now look to move further up the ranks. New Zealand boxing trainer Kevin Barry also looks to have another prospect on his hands as Polish-Nigerian heavyweight Izuagbe Ugonoh made an impressive New Zealand debut. He demolished Auckland's Maletino Iakopo (2-15) with a knockout in the early stages of the second round. Displaying good movement and hand speed, Ugonoh delivered the decisive blow with a powerful right to the side of Iakopo's head, dropping him to his knees. 

- Stuff

Boxer Izuagbe Ugonoh wants Pole position


Izuagbe Ugonoh is happy to be Joseph Parker's friend - for now. One day he'd love to hop in the boxing ring and knock out the rising New Zealand heavyweight for a world title. It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. Ugonoh has convinced Parker's trainer Kevin Barry to take him under his wing. He's sparred earlier this year and has just spent three weeks in camp with Parker and Barry in Las Vegas. Now he's in Auckland tapering off his training with them as he prepares to fight on the undercard to Parker's bout with Sherman Williams in West Auckland on Thursday night. Ugonoh found his way to Barry in roundabout fashion. Born in Poland to Nigerian parents who were studying there, Ugonoh showed enough footballing promise as a youngster to attract interest from Spanish clubs. "I was about to have my breakthrough . . . it almost happened," Ugonoh said. "But I got to the stage where football wasn't fun for me anymore. So I thought if this was going to be my job, do I need to quit and find something else I'm more passionate about. Because without passion you can only reach a certain level." Ugonoh believed he had a better future as a fighter. He had to display those skills early just to defend himself at times. "Growing up in Poland was very challenging for me as the only black kid in the school, the neighbourhood and elsewhere," said the chiselled 27-year-old. He started Muay Thai and then moved into kick-boxing. He found his niche - in 2009 he won a world title and followed that up with the European title the next year. A trip to the United States pricked his interest in boxing and he believed that was where his real future lay. He turned professional and has an unbeaten eight-fight record (seven knockouts) as a cruiserweight. He's now stepped up a division and has been making the most of his time in Vegas to try to forge a career. He has gained plenty of sparring work and is now working to a fight schedule, wanting Barry to diversify a style that was built on the more rigid European techniques. Barry came across Ugonoh when both Parker and he were sparring with Bermane Stiverne ahead of the Canadian's successful world title fight. Parker and Ugonoh also sparred to help Parker for his looming fight in Germany.

When Ugonoh's management asked Barry to get involved, he thought long and hard but decided there were benefits all round, especially since Parker was doing so much training solo. They hit it off and the system seems to be working. "I really like Izu as a person. He is a lot like Joseph and the two of them have become very close mates in a very short time," Barry said of Ugonoh who has a degree in physical education. "He is a lovely respectful guy who trains very hard. He is a real athlete. "We have had him in the gym and Joe is loving that. For the first 18 months there was Joe and I and sometimes my son Tay. "I'm not training with Joe, I'm coaching him - he's doing the hard yards, Now he has got someone to run up the hills with, someone to do his weights with. They are pushing each other which is a really good thing. It's also been just some camaraderie. When you have someone beside you, it's a totally different mindset. Ad Feedback "Izu is a very skilful fighter and now both guys have got world class sparring with each other whenever and where ever we want it. That is a major. It makes our stable so much stronger." Barry sees real potential from his brief time with Ugonoh. "I'm excited about his prospects. He hasn't fought for a year and half. I've made some changes and I'm excited to see what he will look like in the ring. "It's early days, I need some time to work with him but I like what he is showing me, his attitude and as a person." Ugonoh says he's already feeling improvement in his skills, justifying his decision to ask Barry for help. "I saw Joseph's progress and I thought Kevin had done a great job. I feel like I have a lot of potential and I'm a fast learner and I wanted him to pass that magic on to me." Ugonoh has big ambitions. "That's why I'm here." When he's told he's not allowed to beat Parker, he flashes a quick smile and says: "I will, I will. "He's a great friend and stuff but we are going to beat ourselves up. Just sparring, I wouldn't be doing him any favours if I didn't go full on at him. And I expect the same thing from him."

- Sunday News

Introducing: Izu Ugonoh By Bryce Wilson

 A Polish guy with Nigerian parents walks into a gym in New Zealand….it sounds like the beginnings of a good joke but it is merely proof once again how the sport of boxing can uplift a fighter from everything they know and transport them halfway around the world as they seek to take their tools of trade on the road, mapping out a journey to championship belts and a better life. I meet Polish Heavyweight fighter Izu (pronounced ‘E-zoo’) Ugonoh at a boxing gym in East Auckland as he prepares to take on the ever dangerous ‘TBA’ as one of the featured undercard bouts for the upcoming Joseph Parker/Sherman Williams fight at Trusts Stadium on October 16th. Ugonoh is a former kickboxing champion who has dabbled in boxing since 2010 compiling a 9-0 record in the process. However as James Toney once famously remarked, “you can play other sports but you can’t play boxing” and it is perhaps that colonel of truth that has seen Ugonoh pass on a career in kickboxing to focus solely on science of pugilism having now moved to Las Vegas and seeking out Kevin Barry to train him. I ask Izu, who proudly fights under the moniker ‘The Black Pole’ how different it is to move from the glacial blasts of Poland to the suffocating arid heat of Nevada. Does the sunshine and warmth compensate for missing his family and leaving behind everything he has come to know? Or does being raised in a Polish culture so massively different from his family origins of Nigeria already embed in him a kind of gypsy DNA that makes him adaptable to change? The heat he says has taken some getting used to, swapping snow for sun. He remarks that he naturally misses his family but he also understands the importance of the moment and embracing life’s opportunities when they are on offer. He doesn’t want his story to be one of regret and chances not taken. The notion of being the best you can be is something he mentions several times over the course of our conversation. Moving to such a completely different part of the world in order to chase his dreams is something of a no-brainer.

Standing 6,4” he possesses the type of height almost mandatory by today’s heavyweight standards and lending him a not dissimilar appearance to that of a more muscular version of Paul Williams. His height and leaner muscle has already seen him tabbed by Bermane Stiverne’s camp as a potential sparring partner in preparation for the Deontay Wilder fight should it get finalized. And while there is a lot to learn about striking, foot work and ring generalship one has to assume that some of the components that made for a successful career in kickboxing will transition handily over to the fists-only variety. Certainly the athleticism and foot speed will be useful in the big man’s division. I ask Izu what was it that made him decide to finally take the leap into boxing fulltime. Is it the lure of better financial inducements, a wider variety of fight opportunities or just a greater passion for the sport? A greater passion for the sport is his answer which doesn’t seem surprising as Izu appears to be nothing if not a passionate individual. Often the need to fight emanates from a dark place, sometimes even a place of weakness as Mike Tyson’s story illustrates, that of a bullied child that learned to fight as a coping mechanism. Was this the case with Izu? Did the strangeness of growing up so distinctly different to the other children around him have any bearing on his desire to fight? Did schoolyard taunts and brawls find their outlet in combat sports? He answers yes to this but is also quick to add that times have changed markedly in Poland and there now exists a far greater tolerance of different cultures and ethnicities. It’s why he proudly fights as Polish and is keen to represent and extend Poland’s illustrious history in the sport of boxing. Whilst for the longest time when America remained the standard bearer of the sport there often seemed to be a well worn formula for identifying a prospective young talent: Find a kid from the projects, dirt poor and hungry, uneducated but with a fire within, a fire to fight their way out of their current circumstances to a better life. This narrative of rags to riches certainly holds true for Floyd Mayweather the current king of sport, as well as many other notable American fighters. But then perhaps it holds just as true to many of the Latino, Puerto Ricans and Filipino fighters to have also excelled in the sport. Most notably in Eastern Europe in recent years a different type of trend in the sport has been emerging. Quality boxers have begun to surface who are often multilingual and highly educated. The Klitschko brothers both famously have doctorate degrees; while ex-WBA Light Heavyweight champ Beibut Shumenov is a qualified lawyer. Ugonoh also holds a degree in professional education and sport and speaks two languages.

What it does demonstrate is just how cerebral the sport is, and while an internal fire is an important component, it isn’t the only component for success. I ask him then where does the motivation come from? Holding a degree as well as media opportunities (already having had a cameo part in a Polish film,) why put himself through it? Surely the punishment of ring can’t be fun? In his answer we return to the theme of no regrets and of wanting to extract every ounce of talent he has before it is too late and life’s pathway takes him on other journeys. Izu puts it simply, “There is a time to do those other things but my time to box is now.” In boxing like any business you need only follow the money to get a feel as to what directions the sport is moving in and in boxing the industry’s primary mover and shaker right now is Al Haymon. Haymon is already in charge of Light Heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara’s career as well as recently signing two additional Polish prospects Featherweight Kamil Laszczyk and Junior Middleweight Patryk Szymanski. Whilst in the past the likes of Andrew Golota and Tomasz Adamek have fought in America with a strong Polish support base, now along with other Eastern European counties such as Russia and the Ukraine, fighters from the old Soviet Bloc are beginning to flourish in niche markets such as Germany and Canada. Haymon’s recent signings indicate that a reboot of the American market may not be far behind. Could this see an endorsement of more Polish fighters? Certainly with the market now lying wide open a Polish Heavyweight with potential would be a welcome addition to the division. The time spent sparring with the likes of Bermane and Parker can only help but accelerate the learning curve and help hone his technique. To be the best you have to face the best. Like other kick boxers and mixed martial arts fighters before him there is a lot to learn and a lot to unlearn, something Ugonoh is working overtime with trainer Kevin Barry on, looking to absorb his knowledge and experience.

The learning curve will be steep, there will be nowhere to hide but that’s the way he likes it. Boxing has its own unique way of throwing up these characters of interest, international travellers who tell their story in the ring without smoke and mirrors or special effects. It is as it has always been, two men in a ring, a referee and the Marquis of Queensberry rules. And you feel that only in a sport like boxing would you find a Nigerian Pole fighting for his future in a place like Auckland, New Zealand. We engage not just in the sport to hear the bell ring and watch their fists fly but to also learn more about the men who engage in this strangest of occupations.

Boxing: Parker talks up Polish training pal

Joseph Parker has a significant new training partner at his Las Vegas base - former kickboxer Izu Ugonoh, a Pole of Nigerian descent who has the same physical characteristics as the New Zealand heavyweight. Parker's trainer, Kevin Barry, has agreed to work with Ugonoh, slightly taller than the 1.93m South Aucklander, and wants promoters Duco to sign him up, believing he has great potential as a boxer. Meanwhile, the two fighters have been training together and have sparred four rounds. Ugonoh will fight on the undercard of Parker's main event against Sherman Williams at Waitakere on October 16. "It's great to have Izu here. We're both after the same goal, we're teammates now. He's focused, I'm focused. He works hard and it's inspiring - we're helping each other up our skills and techniques," Parker said. Ugonoh, 27 and unbeaten in nine fights as a professional boxer, said: "It's definitely easier training hard while you have company. I believe we can do much better work together." Both Parker and Ugonoh want to be world champions, but Barry said they were unlikely to fight each other. Meanwhile, light heavyweight Robert Berridge has gone to Thailand to work with American trainer Barry Robinson, a specialist in footwork, after losing to Vasily Lepikhin in Pennsylvania in August.

- NZ Herald