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Jason Who? That was the overwhelming reaction when American journeyman Jason Bergman was announced as Joseph Parker's first opponent for 2016, in Apia, Samoa on Saturday night. Yeah, Bergman was a southpaw and Parker had never fought a lefty as a pro, but there is little in the 31-year-old's 25-11-2 record to suggest he'll be much more than road kill for an elite heavyweight who is tracking towards a world title shot sometime in the next 18 months; a young lion who has dispatched his last six foes by knockout within four rounds. Or is there? Scratch below the surface a little and there is more to the Pittsburgh-area battler than meets the eye. Bergman has gone 16-2 over the last five years, dispatching a number of fancied contenders along the way, including former U.S. Olympian Devin Vargas. He also posted a spectacular knock of John L. Smith - the nephew of James 'Buster' Douglas - to capture the North American Boxing Association heavyweight title.
Those achievements are easily obscured by the nine losses Bergman suffered over the first three years of his career; losses that came when he foolishly served himself up as a passenger on boxing's meat wagon, losses that would do as much damage to his standing as his chin. But wipe away those first three years and Bergman looks very much like a contender lurking behind a journeyman's record. "This is my chance to show the world," Bergman says of his tilt at Parker in Apia on Saturday night. "Nobody knows the real truth about me. My first three years of fighting I went 9-9. But I didn't work out, I didn't train. I did it for a second income while I worked [as a truck driver]. I had no manager. I was used and abused. I was in a bad side of the boxing world where they just run you around the country and put you in with people way over your head." Things changed when he met Jack Conway, a veteran fight trainer who spotted genuine potential going to waste. Adopting a "ground zero" approach, Conway guided Bergman off the meat wagon and onto the path the would ultimately lead to Apia and a shot at Parker's precious world rankings.
Bergman's route to a tilt at heavyweight boxing relevance is in many ways a classic American tale. He grew up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a steel and coal-belt town of around 10,000 people located 74km from Pittsburgh. Incongruously best known as a key stop off on the 'underground railway' travelled by slaves escaping the south in the 1850s and the place where the Big Mac was invented just over a 100 years later, Uniontown is a production line for hard cases like Bergman. Football, fighting and pumping iron are among the more popular pursuits for young men. For those keen to demonstrate their prowess, Tough Man shows provide the perfect platform. The rules are fairly simple - if you've no fighting record to speak of (no more than five amateur fights and no pro fights) and you fancy taking your chances in the ring against an array of 400lb (180kg) monsters, you're in. If at this stage you're picturing pick-up trucks, crushed beer cans and bearded men in overalls chewing on pieces of straw, you're not too far wrong, says Bergman. "There are rules but they mainly just want tough guys who want to fight and put on a good show, who will get in there and just wail away. They were pretty much outright brawls. They are only one minute rounds but when you are swinging away like that 30 seconds can seem like an eternity. The biggest thing to doing well is honestly just having some balls and having a bit of stamina.
"It is very entertaining - put it that way. I still go back and watch them." Bergman's first Tough Man went okay. His second went better. In his third contest, in Wheeling, West Virginia, he beat all comers, winning around $US1000 to go with a good dollop of hard man kudos. He was tough, all right, but totally unschooled.
"I was never taught anything. I never finished a football game without a fight but I was never taught anything." And so it was through the first years of his pro career, when he pulled off some upsets but just as often was beaten down by vastly more skilled and better prepared fighters. Things have changed. Bergman's most recent assignment was as a sparring partner for WBC champion Deontay Wilder for what proved a successful title defence against Artur Szpilka last weekend. Other fighters came and went with rapidity but Bergman, who has also sparred with Russian contender Alexander Povetkin ("I blacked his eye in the second week I was there - I've still got a picture of that and I am going to hold onto it") and former world cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek, lasted three weeks in Wilder's camp.
"After the first couple of days most people get gun shy," says Bergman. "They get in there and just try to survive. I don't know how to do that." So Bergman will do what he does against Parker, press forward and look to land some bombs. His strategy, he says, amounts to "taking it round by round". "This will be the toughest fight that I have ever been in," he says. "But I am ready to go to war. I have no family, I have no kids, no wife. I have nothing to lose in there. When I get in the ring I am ready for it to be my last fight." Having been judged for years primarily by the numbers next to his name he is also ready to set his record straight.
"The way I look at it I am 16-2. I Look at myself now as a prospect more than a journeyman. I can knock someone out with either hand. This is my shot to show everyone."
By Steve Deane
Joseph Parker on new champ Martin - 'he's nothing special'
The wisdom of Joseph Parker's handlers arranging a fight against American southpaw Jason Bergman in Apia on Saturday has quickly become evident. On Sunday, Parker and trainer Kevin Barry watched a television screening of lefty Charles Martin defeating Vyacheslav Glazkov for the vacant IBF heavyweight championship, with Parker immediately saying he would feel confident about facing the new champion. "Charles Martin, we watched him. He won the IBF championship of the world but we don't think he's anything special," Parker said today. Parker, 24, is undefeated as a professional, but has yet to fight a southpaw as a pro. He has admitted to having problems adjusting to an unorthodox opponent in training, so there will be added scrutiny on his performance in Apia. Bergman, a tough 31-year-old who recently sparred with WBC champion Deontay Wilder, will provide different problems for Parker to solve, but the New Zealander's youth, fitness and superior technique will make him an overwhelming favourite. New IBF champion Martin won't be in a hurry to face Parker, but if he eventually does, the South Aucklander's experience this weekend should stand him in good stead.
Martin, who has been a professional since 2012, hasn't fought anyone of much substance, according to keen boxing observers, and that includes the over-rated Glazkov, who retired with a knee injury in the third round of their bout in Brooklyn, New York, thereby handing the title to his American opponent. Martin, untroubled in the first two rounds, extended his unbeaten record to 23-0-1 with his TKO victory. Parker is ranked 10th by the IBF but Sunday's result, plus Wilder's knockout victory over Artur Szpilka later, will have moved him closer to a mandatory challenge without him having thrown a punch. Szpilka, challenging for Wilder's WBC heavyweight title, will drop down the IBF rankings after being knocked cold in the ninth round by Wilder in the main event at Brooklyn's Barclay's Centre today, and Glazkov will also slip. "It just reinforces our decision to fight a southpaw here in Samoa," said Parker's trainer, Kevin Barry. The IBF title was vacated by WBO and WBA champion Tyson Fury after he elected to take a re-match against Wladimir Klitschko, and the British fighter created fireworks of his own when storming the ring and confronting Wilder after his fight. There was a staged feel to the ring invasion, with Wilder giving as good as he received, but Parker believes the new breed of heavyweights in the post-Klitschko era are breathing life into the division.
"Having these characters is definitely going to give us a lot more attention," he said. Barry, who watched Wilder's fight, closely was impressed with Spilka's game plan and early performance, before the spectacular knockout. He said: "Wilder has very heavy hands, especially his right hand, which is devastating, but until then I thought it was a lacklustre performance from Wilder, who looked confused by Spilka's movement and style."
- NZ Herald
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Parker copping punches in preparation for Samoa
In preparing for his fight against southpaw Jason Bergman in Samoa a week on Saturday, Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker has unintentionally worn more punches than in any other training camp. Parker's battle with American Bergman in Apia, which will be screened live on pay per view television, has been tagged "Rumble in Paradise", but the South Aucklander's recent four-week camp has been anything but. An elbow injury and lower back problem which have been aggravated at Parker's Las Vegas base are other issues for him and trainer Kevin Barry to deal with as the 24-year-old looks to continue his rise up the ranks, but it's Parker's defensive lapses as he adjusts to a new style which might be the most concerning. "He's been hit with more punches during this training camp than ever before," Barry said. "He wants to go to the right but against a southpaw you have to go to left.
"It's made me a little concerned because I like to be prepared." Bergman (25-11-2) has won 17 of his last 19 fights but is unlikely to seriously threaten Parker, who has a perfect 17-0 professional record. The fight is the focus but Parker is also looking forward to a much-needed break before preparing for bouts in April and July which he and his camp hope get him near a mandatory challenge in a division in a state of flux following the defeat of Wladimir Klitschko. "This is our sixth fight in 10 months," Barry said. "It's a lot to ask and we've had very little down time. Joe's body is telling him at the moment 'I need a break'. "In the three years we've had he's been lucky with injuries. He's had a shoulder problem and we had an eye scare for a start, but in this particular camp we had the niggles right throughout."
Parker, ranked in the top 10 in the WBC, IBF and WBO, isn't the only one feeling the pinch. Barry said he would undergo surgery two days after the fight on two hernias which have been aggravated by the constant pad work he does with the powerful Parker and heavyweight stablemate Izu Ugonoh. "Some days it is really rough in training and other days fine," Barry said. "I have taken a pounding to the body in the last 12 months by Joe and Izu. Body punching is a big part of my skillset." While a break is within grasp for Parker, the Samoa trip holds a special appeal.
"I'm feeling sore and my body needs a break but this is a fight I'm looking forward to," he said. "My parents were born in Samoa and I travel there every year to visit the family and friends so it's nice to get back there and thank everyone for their support."
The 31-year-old Bergman, who has sparred recently with WBC champion Deontay Wilder, is seen as the perfect opponent to get Parker used to southpaws. This weekend in New York Wilder will defend his title against southpaw Artur Szpilka and on the same card the IBF world title, which was recently stripped from Klitschko's conqueror Tyson Fury, will be contested between Vyacheslav Glazkov and southpaw Charles Martin.
- NZ Herald
Boxing: Parker to be in hot demand
Arriving at their final press conference in Auckland today wearing lavalava and traditional pattern shirts before departing for Samoa, Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker and his team are vowing to embrace the chaotic welcome they are likely to receive. However, there will be checks and balances once they arrive in Apia on Saturday seven days before the fight against American Jason Bergman, and they will be provided mainly by trainer Kevin Barry, who today jokingly said he would confiscate 24-year-old Parker's phone once they step off the plane. Parker, 24, and Barry visited Samoa, the birthplace of Parker's parents Dempsey and Sala, in October following the victory over Kali Meehan, and the welcome for one of the island nation's favourite sons gave Barry an insight into what to expect next week.
"Joe comes from two very, very big families," he said. "When you talk about aunties and uncles, Joe has got dozens of them. A lot of them still live in Samoa and because they feel he belongs to them, everyone wants him to do things. "We're well aware of it. Joe knows what his focus is and I play the role of the bad guy pretty well." Parker said: "The main focus of this trip to Samoa is achieving a victory. We have to stay focused and it's good to have people around you to keep distractions to a minimum." That's not to say that Parker's supporters won't have opportunities to see him. There are various outings planned, plus potentially a public training session at the gymnasium in which the fight, to be screened live on Sky, will be held. Barry, who took Samoan heavyweight David Tua to an unsuccessful world title challenge against Lennox Lewis in 2000, also said he was likely to hold a coaching clinic for some youngsters next week. Bergman, who arrived in Auckland from the United States today, is aware of the support Parker will receive in Apia, plus the fact his opponent will be the hot favourite to extend his perfect 17-0 professional career. However, the powerfully-built southpaw vowed to present Parker with his sternest challenge yet.
"Joseph is a very good all-round fighter ... he's quick and smooth with a very good pedigree, a good amateur background but the only thing I doubt is that he hasn't fought no one," Bergman said. "I've been in the ring with three world champions. "I don't have the ranking I believe I should have because I got off to a bad start in boxing. I've won 16 of my last 18 fights because I started taking it more seriously and got with the right coaches ... and ... I believe there are only two or three southpaws in the world capable of running with me."
Bergman, 31, who has just come off a training camp with WBC world champion Deontay Wilder, will be the first southpaw Parker has faced as a professional, and Barry has made no secret of the fact that his man has struggled to adapt to the new style in training. Barry and Parker have also talked openly about the niggling injuries the South Aucklander has carried through his four-week training camp. Barry, hoping to position his man for a mandatory title challenge by the end of the year, said of what is at stake: "If Jason Bergman can get that overhand left going, which we know we has - if he gets that victory he will move up the rankings to a position for a really big payday. This is the incentive for everyone who gets in the ring with Joe."
- NZ Herald
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Boxing trainer Kevin Barry says David Tua needed Joseph Parker's attitude to win world heavyweight title
Boxing trainer Kevin Barry believes if David Tua had Joseph Parker's drive and dedication he would have won the world heavyweight title. Barry oversaw the development and peak of Tua's professional career which culminated in a disappointing unanimous points loss to world champion Lennox Lewis in a title fight in Las Vegas in 2000. Tua, who had one of the biggest left hooks in the business, never got another title chance. Barry now handles New Zealand's next great hope in the form of the fast-fisted 24-year-old Parker.
Parker's management are on a drive to increase Parker's profile in Britain as the heavyweight division opens up following Tyson Fury's win over Wladimir Klitschko.
Barry has done a lengthy interview with Sky Sports there where he didn't shy away from comparing Tua and Parker, the two Kiwi Samoans. "David Tua had God-given power," Barry told Sky Sports. "I think there is far more to Joseph Parker's overall game than what there was to David Tua. "Tua knocked out five guys that wore the heavyweight belt and never wore it himself, which was something we're all very disappointed about. "I had 12 years with Tua and I believe that if he was as driven as what Joseph Parker is, he would have worn the heavyweight belt. "This young man (Parker) is very mature for his 24 years and we are nowhere near reaching his potential. He is getting bigger and stronger and better in every training camp that we have and I'm very excited. I believe that I have a guy that when we fight for a world title, he will win the world title. "As we've gone from fight to fight, I know he's special, I know he's gifted. The only one who can stop Joseph Parker from becoming the world champion, is himself."
Tua had notorious weight struggles between fights while Parker continues to take pleasure in developing and shaping his body and skills for this toughest of challenges. Barry suggested Tua suffered stage-fright against Lewis where he hardly fired a shot and the big Brit was content to see out the final bell to hold on to his WBC, IBF and IBO belts. "When we were on the biggest stage, I think he was a little overawed and couldn't pull the trigger when it mattered the most. When he realised that he was behind - he couldn't win - he was content to survive the 12 rounds instead of finding a way to win the fight.
"I know David himself would have loved a do-over, because he knows he was capable of doing a lot more than he actually did on that night." Barry said the British scene had become increasingly attractive and confirmed a change of direction from Parker's handlers who would also target that area for their world-ranked fighter to show his skills. Fury, Derek Chisora, the returning David Haye and impressive youngster Anthony Joshua all made the UK a good target for Parker. Naturally, the subject of Parker and Joshua being on parallel lines was raised and Barry liked the prospects of his fighter against the 2012 Olympic gold medallist. "There are a lot of similarities in the way that Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker have been brought along," Barry told Sky Sports. "Obviously Anthony is a little bit bigger, he's a little bit heavier, he's got a longer reach. "I think Joseph Parker has got a better selection of punches, I think he's got faster hand-speed. There will be several questions about who hits the hardest and I don't think we will find that out until the two of them fight each other."
Parker's next fight is in Samoa on January 23 when he takes on American southpaw Jason Bergman.
By Nicky Styris
Joseph Parker is taking much longer to get to grips with fighting a southpaw than expected, according to his trainer Kevin Barry. The Kiwi heavyweight has an intimidating record, but all the opponents he's faced in the ring thus far have been of the orthodox variety – and Barry says Parker isn't finding the transition easy.
"This is something I actually expected Joe to pick up a little easier than he actually has," Barry explained. "Joe is a very good learner – some of things I've taught him over the years, I've shown him a couple of times and he's picked it up straight away. "I thought when we were changing our style for the southpaw that he would continue to learn fast and make the adjustments, but there's been a few things about this [training] camp that have concerned me."
Watch the interview with Kevin Barry and Joseph Parker, as well as Barry's southpaw demonstration with reporter Nicky Styris, in the video above.
Busy schedule catching up with Joseph Parker ahead of southpaw test in Samoa
It may be a new year but Joseph Parker is still very much feeling the effects of a long 2015 as he prepares for his maiden southpaw test in Samoa next week.
The 'Rumble in Paradise' against American Jason Bergman will be Parker's sixth fight in the last 10 months and the busy schedule is catching up with him.
Niggling lower back and elbow injuries have hampered what was already a shorter-than-usual four-week training camp in Las Vegas. And while organisers insist there's no chance of the January 23 bout in Apia not going ahead, Parker admits it's going to be a challenge both physically and mentally to push through the pain barrier. "You're sort of a bit scared to throw your hand when you know there's injuries. You don't really want to throw it and I'm sort of holding back in what I can actually do in the ring," said Parker, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday.
"It sort of plays a few tricks on your mind. With the back as well you can't really sit down on your punches and give it the full power that you can give. "Even though we have injuries and niggles we are 100 per cent prepared." With none of Parker's last five bouts going past the fourth round, his fatigue is more a result of several gruelling training camps that have pushed his body to the limit. Trainer Kevin Barry says he has demanded plenty of Parker over the last year and is due for a well-earned break - but not before hopefully extending his perfect 17-0 record with victory against Bergman. "This fight in Samoa for me is just a continuation of 2015," Barry said. "Six fights in 10 months is a lot to ask for a young guy. Ok, some of the fights have been short - most of them have been short - we've had a lot of good knockouts in 2015. But what you need to remember is that we've sparred over 375 rounds in the gym over the last year."
The last have those rounds have been frustrating for Barry as Parker has struggled to get to grips with the southpaw style. The biggest adjustment he has had to make is constantly moving to his left, away from an opponent's power hand. That's something which hasn't come naturally to him. "Joe's probably been hit more with this sparring partner than any other sparring partner over the last couple of years," Barry added. "So it's definitely going to be a challenge for us fighting a southpaw but a challenge that Joe's up for." Bergman's record stands at 25-11-2 but he comes into the bout in fine form having won 16 of his last 18 fights. He's also had the luxury of being a sparring partner for WBC champion Deontay Wilder ahead of his title defence against Artur Szpilka this weekend. But Barry is confident he's the right opponent for Parker at this stage of his career.
"[Bergman's] a very durable, capable guy and I'm sure he gave Wilder good work. Wilder's a lot taller than Joe so Joe's height definitely won't bother him. And Wilder's got fast hands but he hasn't got the speed that Joseph Parker has."
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