I was standing at the amateur boxing in Hornby one night, when this young polite Samoan kid from South Auckland rocked up and asked if I could call my brother Kevin for him.
I’d never met this young guy before, but he was adamant he wanted to speak with Kev.
Little did he know, a couple of days earlier, I had received a call from Kevin who was in Las Vegas, asking me to go down and check out this young Samoan kid. His name was Joseph Parker.
My report back probably didn’t go the way Joe would have hoped for. I said, ‘he’s a great boxer, or more importantly he’s got potential to be a great boxer, but he’s probably 2-3 years away from turning pro.’
Over the next few weeks, Bob Jones, Joseph’s manager at the time must have continued to chip away at Kev, because about 3 months later Kevin was in Auckland, they all caught up, and a week or so after that Jo had turned pro.
Even back then, in 2012, Joseph knew what he wanted to do, and how to go about making it happen.
I think that’s one of the things I really like about him. Outside of being a polite, super likable guy, he has this level of focus and knows how to go about making things happen.
Since then, alongside Kev and the crew, I’ve gladly been in his corner 24 times, I’ve been his assistant trainer, his cut man and he even calls me uncle bryan. I’ve spent weeks, if not months with him in New Zealand, the US and the UK.
Along with Kevin and Taylor and Jos brother John, I stood beside him when beer was raining down all over us, poured by raucous Anthony Joshua fans, as we waited to enter Millennium Stadium. Then been one of just a handful of positive voices trying to pierce through the deafening screams of 78 thousand that were wanting him to fail.
I was there when he took on Dyllian Whyte too, wiping away the blood coming out of his ear after after the headbutt that shook him in the second round.
And yes, things have changed since 2012 when I first met him. He’s no longer a World Champion.
He’s no longer the kid that needs chaperoning at the supermarket to make sure he didn’t over spend either.
He has a house of his own, he has two kids and delights in the fact his parents are a major ingredient in his career.
But despite all of those experiences and things changing around him, I think deep down he’s still the same young kid from Samoa wanting to be the best in the World.
It actually feels quite surreal, that he’s here again in Christchurch. Because don’t forget, when Joseph bailed me up that night in Hornby, he’d recently lost the chance to represent New Zealand at the London Olympics. He was a young kid, dealing with the disappointment of not achieving that goal he’d set out to achieve and looking to grab the next opportunity.
And in all my experience in boxing, that’s all that Joseph needs to do again. Be that young kid from South Auckland, with that desire to do what he puts his mind to, and go out there and make it happen.
Good Luck Joe, I’ll be right beside you.
Boxing was never actually my dream.
It was more Dads and Kevin’s.
I remember as a youngster setting up this long run of carpet down the hallway, so I could then get on my knees and race up and down as if I was driving a horse. I wanted to be a driver in the racing industry.
That was until dad took me down to Oamaru one school holidays to some racing stables and said, ‘right, you’re here for the next 2 weeks’ and I was like, ‘no, take me home, I want to be boxing with you guys!’
I guess its fair to say I warmed into it pretty quickly after getting a taste for it during my first fight at 9 years old.
It’s been awesome to be in the corner of not one but two world title fights, as a kid I sometimes dreamt about going to a world title fight, but I’ve been lucky enough to work and be in the corner for four and hopefully there’s still more to come.
Over the following forty something years in the sport I’ve seen it transform and transform the lives of so many people too. I’ve embraced the corporate side of things too for the positive impacts it often has on people.
I’ve had some amazing times and met some amazing celebrities, but deep down I think I have more fun with just the 200 or 500 people in the room type fight nights. Training a bunch of fighters who have put their heart and soul into an 8-week training block just to test their own limits and represent their family and community.
It also gives me great pleasure to see my daughter Tania running the gym too. Her passion and motivation to train as many people a she can is awesome. She’s a real credit to our family and to our community.
Boxing has had a major impact on our lives, and yes it has made me rich, not in money terms, but when I’m sitting in that old peoples home, I’ve got some great stories to tell. I’ve got some amazing memories and for that I’m truly grateful.