May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016
jack dempsey

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THE death of Jack Dempsey at the grand old age of 87 on May 31, 1983 ended that great era of boxing. Old Jack was the last link with the days of huge crowds at open-air fights and the first million dollars gates made only possible by the magic name of Dempsey, who will be always included in the list of all-time greats.

For me, personally, I’m grateful to Dempsey for some of my earliest childhood memories and for his charm and kindness to me as a boxing writer throughout the Forties and Fifties.

I was privileged to shake the hand of the great Dempsey in 1926 a few months before he lost the title he had held since 1919 to Gene Tunney.

He made a tour of Europe with his first wife, the film actress Estelle Taylor, his manager ‘Doc’ Kearns and a famous New York boxing writer named Damon Runyon.

Dempsey had graciously agreed to box an exhibition against Phil Scott, the then British heavyweight champion, for a charity tournament run by Sir Harry Preston at the Dome in Brighton.

My father, then a leading boxing writer, had joined the Dempsey party and had also agreed to drive Tommy Milligan, the new British middleweight champion, by car to Brighton as Tommy was also boxing an exhibition.

I was a small boy but recall the drive from London to Brighton in an old Austin car. We stopped for lunch at the George Inn at Crawley, almost opposite the restaurant now run by Alan Minter, who succeeded Milligan as 11st 6lb champion fifty years later.

Milligan had brought his Lonsdale Belt with him and there was a scare during lunch when my father realised the car containing the belt was not locked and in a panic he and Tommy rushed from the dining room to check that the belt was safe. They brought it back into the restaurant.

Dempsey, of course, was given a tremendous reception in Brighton but his rugged two fisted style was not suitable for exhibitions and Scott with the orthodox straight left was made to look very impressive against the world champion whose fists were clearly wrapped in cotton wool.

But it was obvious to even me that had it been a contest, Scott would not have been allowed to stay around for very long.

Having shaken the great fist and received his autograph, Dempsey was clearly now my hero and though I never saw him in a contest, I was thrilled at seeing the films of some of his fights in the Twenties.

At school we didn’t have the entertainment that television provides for the children of today… The Oxford v Cambridge boat race or England v Scotland football games provided us with fun months before the events took place.

The two Dempsey-Tunney fights of 1926 and ’27 were perfect for schoolboys. Just as you were either ‘Oxford’ or ‘Cambridge’ so you were either ‘Dempsey’ or ‘Tunney’. Fights went on in the playground every day, long before the fights took place.

I was, of course, ‘Dempsey’ though I still don’t believe the other boys accepted my proud boast that I had shaken the hand of the champion.

My next meeting with the great man was in London during the blitz. I was stationed in Devon for the Daily Express when I was called to London for the day to interview the former champion who was due in London with the US coastguards. He held the rank of Commander.

I met him and found him as charming as ever. He remembered my father, who had kept in touch with him. We drove to the US Army headquarters at Kingston-on-Thames to watch a Services boxing tournament and I recall that Dempsey’s biggest astonishment was how the British all got about so well in the blackout, driving without street-lights and with heavily masked headlamps.

‘I might just as well be in a fog,’ he said.

I met Dempsey again in New York in the summer of 1946 and once again his generosity and charm were tremendous. He had his famous Restaurant on Broadway but when I phoned on my arrival he insisted I come to his hotel and have breakfast with him on the roof of a skyscraper at eight in the morning.

A perfect host he introduced me to his daughter and gave me a signed copy of his autobiography and photos of him in action. He couldn’t have been kinder or more attentive.

In all my years in boxing I have never met a boxer more unpretentious and helpful. After all, he had not only been one of the greatest heavyweight champions but was still a very successful and important man in the Forties and Fifties.

When he later came to England, the boxing writers entertained him and he was just the same as he came down to Fleet Street and sipped beer with us at Mickey Barnett’s Albion. As always, he signed autographs and posed for photos with all the writers.

Alas, in my last meeting with him in the Seventies, he was far from well and had developed severe arthritis and was using a stick. Worse still, his memory was going and he could no longer recall the happy events we had so often discussed. He lived on but never enjoyed good health again.

Yet what a marvellous example he is for boxing. Not only did he outlive millions, who say boxing is harmful to the health, but he loved the fight game and boxing writers and never cut dead even those who criticised him.

Was he the greatest heavyweight? This can never be proved but he was one of the finest ambassadors and was the last of the great champions who went out of his way to help without asking: ‘How much?’

Read: Jack Dempsey: Original Macho Man

May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016
British Lionhearts

World Series of Boxing

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THE British Lionhearts are sending a strong team to contest the World Series of Boxing final against the Cuba Domadores, which will be held in the Sport Complex of Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Saturday (June 4).

The Lionhearts side features no less than three 2016 Olympians, heavyweight Lawrence Okolie, flyweight Muhammad Ali and light-flyweight Galal Yafai.

Impressive bantamweight Peter McGrail is on the roster and Luke McCormack, who’s been boxing in exciting style in the WSB is also going. Super-heavyweight Frazer Clarke has been showcasing his skills and knockout power for the Lionhearts and he’ll take on Cuba. At 64kgs Dalton Smith could potentially be going in deep, this will be his first contest in this format. Completing the British team are Thomas Whittaker Hart (81kgs), Troy Williamson (75kgs) and Ekow Essuman (69kgs).

If the two teams are level after 10 bouts, Alfie Price will contest the decider at 64kgs.

May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016
Demetrius Andrade

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UNDEFEATED super-welterweight Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade is in a good place as he prepares for his June 11 showdown versus Willie “The Great” Nelson on Showtime (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y.

Approaching the peak of his professional boxing career, the 28-year-old Andrade (22-0, 15 KOs) has moved past a frustrating three-year stretch that, after he won a 12-round decision over Vanes Martirosyan for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) 154-pound world title, found him fighting only twice. One was his only title defense, in which he won impressively by way of a seventh-round stoppage of then WBO No. 1 mandatory title challenger Brian Rose. But, due to promotional issues, Andrade was later stripped by the WBO for inactivity.  His last fight was this past October when he recorded a second-round knockout of Dario Fabian Pucheta for the WBO International belt.

Now, Andrade has a new three-year promotional contract that gives his company, A Team Promotions, 50 percent of his promotional rights to go along with 25 percent each for Banner Promotions and Star Boxing.

“I’ve always been in a good place, mentally, because I have confidence in myself,” said Andrade on what he went through during his long stretch outside of the ring. “I continued training hard. The politics of boxing, well, I’m not 100 percent there yet. Not until I’m actually in the ring and fighting will I actually know if that’s worked out for me.

“I’m satisfied in my future, showcasing myself in the ring. I own 50 percent of myself and that – being a promoter – is a big factor.  I know everything now, including all the real numbers, and I’ve learned about the ins and outs of this business. I’m also meeting the right network of people to help my career.”

Andrade is thrilled to be fighting on Showtime for the second time during his career, the first back in 2013 on ShoBox: The New Generation against Freddy Hernandez. “The top 154-pounders are with SHOWTIME. I’d like to thank SHOWTIME for giving me this amazing opportunity,” he said.

Andrade-Nelson is a 12-round WBC title elimination fight to determine the second mandatory challenger for new WBC Super Welterweight Champion Jermell Charlo, who, as the WBC No. 1 contender was matched last May 21 with No. 2 rated John Jackson.  No. 3 Andrade was originally slated to face No. 5 Charles Hatley in a title eliminator to determine the No. 1 mandatory contender.  However, negotiations with Hatley’s promoter, Don King, failed to materialize and Andrade moved on to fight WBC No. 10 Nelson.  The WBC declared Hatley as Charlo’s mandatory challenger, despite him being ranked lower than Andrade, with the Andrade-Nelson winner now declared the mandatory title challenger for the future Charlo-Hatley victor.

Andrade, though, has no hard feelings with the WBC about its decisions. “I’m just thankful to be fighting in this ‘tournament’,” he commented. “Charlo was the WBC International champion and he should have had the opportunity to fight for the vacant title. I have the WBO International title, Hatley the WBC Silver title, so Hatley should probably have been ranked higher than me by the WBC. I respect the WBC’s decision to make him the first mandatory challenger.”

Nelson (25-2-1, 15 KOs) and Andrade are familiar with each other through the USA Boxing amateur program, but the two have never met in the ring.

“Nelson lets his hands go,” Andrade noted.  “He likes to mix it up and so do I.  I like to think that I’m a little smarter than him in the ring.  This is going to be an interesting fight.  I respect him for taking the fight and I’m preparing to fight the toughest opponent I’ve ever faced. He may be the tallest guy (6′ 3″) I’ve ever fought as a pro, but it’s only a few inches, and not a big deal.”

Andrade is back on his way to reaching the peak of the 154-pound division once again.

“I am ready to set the roof on fire on June 11,” Andrade said. “Once everyone at 154 pounds gets a taste of me, they will know I am the greatest. The Charlos made history by becoming the first twins to hold titles in the same weight division. I will make history by beating both of them. Then I will beat Lara and unify all of the belts.

“Stay tuned. I am a force to be reckoned with. I will show the world that the best 154 pound fighter in the world is Demetrius Andrade.”

May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016
David Price

Action Images

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This feature was originally published in Boxing News magazine

THE road to heavyweight glory is one of sport’s most dangerous, and David Price knows the trail well.

When exploring the highs and lows that can occur for boxing’s big men, Liverpool’s Olympic bronze medallist has experienced more than most. His rise to domestic king was achieved with a brutal simplicity, but complications soon became apparent.
With his once-impressive ledger now tarnished by controversial and, in some cases, scandalous KO losses, Price searches his soul once again as he joins a new trainer and puts into action his latest plan to hit the summit that many prophesised for him, and eliminate the dark memories that still exist.

“Being honest, the jump to Tony Thompson was probably a little bit too far,” Price reflects to Boxing News about his first loss, a two-round stoppage, in February 2013. “Seven months earlier he was fighting Wladimir Klitschko for the world title and now I had to go in there against him. There was no doubt I was getting moved quick and I was okay with it at the time because the momentum I’d built up made me feel like I could beat anyone, but I was caught and that was that. I’d done the same [when getting halted by Roberto Cammarelle in the semi-finals] in the Olympics after beating the Russian [Islam Timurziev] in the first series and let myself get a bit carried away, so I was annoyed with myself for making the same mistake twice.”

Promoter Kellie Maloney, back then still known as Frank and guiding Price’s career, took advantage of a rematch clause and Thompson, confidence boosted, returned to Liverpool in the summer.
This time, he was forced to climb off the floor to earn his victory in the fifth session. Price, with former world champion Lennox Lewis now having a major say regarding his preparations, was unable to sustain his early success and was stopped on his feet. Previous achievements appeared a distant memory as Price’s world title aspirations received a thunderous blow.

“Watch the second fight with Thompson and you’ll see me blowing from the get-go,” Price points out. “I’d overtrained and had nothing from early on. When Thompson went down, the count went to ‘nine’ and I was hoping the ref would stop it. The build-up was overshadowed by having Lennox there, and there was no way I was going to take on board what he was trying to teach me in just one camp. The night of the fight, Lennox was sitting ringside in his suit and was hardly in my dressing room during the warm-up. It was a great experience spending time with him, but ultimately it did nothing for me against Thompson.”

Huge losses led to huge changes and the core of Price’s team altered radically. American Tommy Brooks was installed as head trainer and promotional duties shifted from Maloney to German-based brothers, Kalle and Nisse Sauerland. Despite the losses to Thompson, Price was still very much in demand. Thunderous power combined with the ability to draw huge crowds in Liverpool appealed to British promoters, but the long-term strategy plotted by his eventual handlers convinced him to make a bold move.

“Frank told me he was retiring, so I had to look elsewhere,” Price recalls. “We swapped a couple of emails where I thanked him for everything and that was pretty much that. Discussions were held with both Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn, and both had good ideas about getting me straight back into big fights, but after speaking with the Sauerlands it was clear they had good plans for me. They spoke about building me back up and getting me the right fights so I could get some rounds in, so I’d be better prepared for taking on the bigger names in the division – and making sure there was no chance I’d be making the same mistakes I made against Thompson.”

Four wins from four between 2014-15 restored some of Price’s stolen confidence and paved the way for continental opportunities, but more changes were applied as Brooks made way for the reinstatement of Franny Smith, a mainstay through Price’s career, both amateur and pro, and the man who had tutored Price for the majority of his paid crusade.

“Tommy was a businessman and I think a lot of his motivation is money-based, and that’s absolutely fine with me, but we weren’t in the position to be having big fights and I think that might have gotten to Tommy a little,” Price opines. “He was going from America to Liverpool quite a bit so the travelling wasn’t ideal, and the last I heard he was doing something with the WSB in China. Franny hadn’t done anything wrong in my career and he knows me well, so I brought him back.”

Almost immediately, Smith had to pick his man up again – literally and figuratively – as Price suffered a second-round KO loss to German-based Turk Erkan Teper in July of last year, with the vacant European strap at stake. Although a disastrous spectacle, it was the aftermath of the fight that would become the talking point as Teper tested positive for an illegal substance. This angered Price, who previously had to cope with news that Thompson had tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide – a diuretic and masking agent – following their rematch. That revelation had been delayed due to Thompson’s ultimately fruitless appeal against an 18-month ban, enforced only in the UK. Two of the darkest nights of Price’s career had been inflicted unjustly.

“It makes you angry as there’s not a thing that can be done about it,” Price laments. “Teper was on drugs and he flew at me and had no caution for my power whatsoever. He was like a bull and the first thing that I noticed was his strength. The result has been changed to a No Contest [by Germany’s BDB group which sanctioned the fight, but the EBU have maintained the original result] but that doesn’t really change anything as people have still seen me get knocked out. There’s a tiny bit of hope at the back of my mind that allows me to believe that he couldn’t beat me if he wasn’t on drugs, but that’s the only thing I can really take from it at this moment.”

On Thompson, Price is equally scathing: “His doctors will not give us a single explanation and I find that shocking because of the seriousness of what we’re talking about. He tested positive for a masking agent but no more details have been given to us at this point. I’ll admit that I can’t prove he was taking steroids, but he’s not able to prove he wasn’t and the silence from his team is a big concern.”

Although still a nuisance to a pensive Price, the scandals and setbacks must now be put to one side as he focuses on the next stage of his career, with Sheffield’s Dave Coldwell now taking over training duties. Coldwell looks to rejuvenate the Merseyside man and bring him the same success as his other students, including Price’s close friend, Tony Bellew.

“This is it for me now, it’s possibly my last chance at making something out of the talent I’ve got and I’m hoping Dave can get me to where I know I need to be,” Price enthuses. “Franny has been a great help in my career and he supports my decision and I know he’ll want me to do well. Bellew speaks so highly of Dave’s methods and he’s gone well so far. It’s still early days with him and he’s very big on basics and that’s what I think I need at the moment to get me back to winning ways. Get back to using the jab and setting traps because when I lost to Thompson I think I went too far in the other direction and became too cautious. I need to get that old ‘Pricey’ back.”

With his new team firmly in place, Price’s latest assault on the heavyweight division is one he simply cannot afford to get wrong. With former amateur victim and current unified world champion Tyson Fury occupying the most privileged spot in all of boxing, and Anthony Joshua about to challenge for the IBF championship, the 32-year-old Scouser is well aware of the level he has to reach if he is to deliver on the prophecies that were once forecast about him.

“Joshua hasn’t done much wrong since turning professional… Against Dillian Whyte there was definitely a few things I picked up on,” Price explains. “If he would’ve blew Dillian away in a round then I would’ve held my hands up and said he’s the real deal because Dillian is a winner and he’s very tough and durable. It’s definitely a fight I’d be interested in but I’ve got to be honest and say I need to deserve the opportunity first. He’s human and he’s making mistakes. If he makes them same mistakes against me then I’m confident that I could make him pay.”

On Fury, Price revisits the Manchester fighter’s decision to relinquish the British crown in early 2012 instead of defending it against his North West nemesis. Fury’s promoter, Mick Hennessy, claimed Price’s camp rejected £100,000 to fight his man. Price is insistent that Fury’s decision to ditch the Lonsdale Belt was beneficial to the Wilmslow man’s soaring form since.

“It was a brilliant business decision because the fight came too early for him,” Price states. “He had an awful struggle with John McDermott, which most people thought he lost [in their first fight in 2009, though Fury stopped him in the 2010 rematch] and I knocked John out in a round so I think if we would’ve fought back then I would’ve been successful. That means nothing now because he’s moved forward brilliantly whereas I’ve stood still or maybe even gone backwards. The division owes him a huge favour for beating Klitschko, and I was rooting for him because he deserved it. I still believe there’s not much between us in terms of talent and what we do in the gym, but he’s proven it more when it matters and I’ve got to go out and do that as well.

“There’s not going to be any predictions on what I’m going to do because that’s made me look silly in the past. This is going to be done one day at a time, so we can make sure that I’m fully prepared to be the absolute best that I can be. I’ve felt awful at times in this sport and I’ve had great support to help me back up. I’m so hungry to get back to where I think I belong. If I get to 40 or 50 years of age knowing that I didn’t fulfil my potential, then I won’t be able to sleep at night.”

May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016
brain injury

Action Images/Andrew Boyers

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RECENT  years have seen a surge in the awareness of the risks of brain injury in contact sports, with the NFL currently engaged in a settlement dispute with former players on the basis that the governing body failed to address potential dangers.

In the UK, health professionals have also called on bodies in rugby league and rugby union to review their safety records and focus on player protection.

Now, in the wake of Nick Blackwell’s British middleweight title fight against Chris Eubank Jr, boxing has returned to the spotlight. The bout ended in the tenth round on medical advice, due to the level of swelling developing around Blackwell’s left eye. He later collapsed and was placed in an induced coma, having suffered a small bleed to his skull. Fortunately, no surgery was required and the 25-year-old woke a week later. However, he has since announced he no longer intends to carry on fighting.

After waking from his coma, Blackwell stated there were no hard feelings towards Eubank Jr, saying: “We were both there doing a job.” However, great controversy has arisen, with onlookers suggesting that the referee should have stepped in sooner, and people have questioned whether boxing should be allowed to continue.

How can things change?

While there is no question that any sport involving regular blows to the head leaves its participants at risk of injury, it has also been argued that as long as fighters know the risks, it is their decision. Nevertheless, there have been calls for the sport to consider better means of safeguarding boxers and ensuring prompt medical attention when required.

Unfortunately, even when hospitalised, many do not receive the full support and treatment they require within a suitable timescale. This is mainly due to the strain on medical services and insufficient rehabilitation resources.

Back to bareknuckle boxing?

While gloves are intended to cushion a blow and spread its force, there is an argument that they could, in fact, make the sport more dangerous, as they enable fighters to sustain hard punches over prolonged periods, leading to a greater chance of causing brain injury.

However, bareknuckle fights usually last longer – John L. Sullivan won the last regulated title bout in 1898, defeating his opponent in the 75th round – and there’s no doubt that such fights can cause repeated trauma to the brain’s axons. Thus, despite the World Bareknuckle Boxing Association (WBBA) forming in 2011, it is unlikely that this variation will ever regain mainstream regulation.

Know the signs

It is unlikely that the full dangers of boxing will ever be eliminated. The same is true of many sports, so the argument that boxing should be banned is weakened by the fact that this would suggest many other contact sports should stop.

Typical signs of a possible brain injury include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Dizziness, disorientation, or memory loss.
  • Weakness in any part of the body.
  • Headaches or problems with vision.
  • Drowsiness or loss of consciousness.
  • Convulsions, loss of balance, or unusual breathing.

However, the symptoms of brain injury are not always immediately apparent, and the full extent of damage may not become clear until weeks or even months later. As such, if you have any doubts, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor or another medical professional. Seemingly minor knocks can prove fatal, as was the case for actress Natasha Richardson, whose tragic death came only a few hours after a fall that did not initially appear to have injured her.

The most effective steps the boxing world can take are in identifying and handling potential brain injuries as soon as they occur. This means expert on-site medical teams and ongoing rehabilitation services to ensure injured fighters receive the care they need to recover from injuries.

Get it checked out

Whether you have suffered a minor injury to the head, or a traumatic incident such as whiplash or severe shaking, the most important thing you can do in the wake of such injuries is to seek immediate medical attention.

Early identification of brain trauma means effective treatment and rehabilitation can begin promptly. This can help minimise the long-term effects of brain injury, and increase the chance of the injured person returning to their former way of life.

Malcolm Underhill is a specialist brain injury solicitor for IBB Claims

May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016
make weight

Action Images/Andrew Couldridge

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MAKING weight and being as strong as possible can be a dark art but here are some strategies that may help you progress and some strategies to avoid.

Energy In vs Energy Out

This is the primary factor that will determine your weight loss; in essence, your caloric intake is king. It is very important to establish how you are going to lose weight:

  • Lose weight through a dietary calorie deficit
  • Lose weight through high intensity exercise whilst staying at maintenance calorie intake
  • Lose weight through a calorie deficit and exercise

The method you choose will be largely down to your preference and or physical conditioning. That said, it is important to note that the more you can eat and still make weight will greatly improve overall fitness and conditioning. If you can get away with higher calories and make weight comfortably you will be in far better position over an athlete who has to “dry” themselves out the day before and on weigh in day. Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton was famous for his yo yo dieting and had to kill himself to get down to the light-welterweight limit. Dropping 3 stone in 12 weeks most of his training camps arguably cut his great career short. If you’re killing yourself trying to make weight, either your nutrition needs adjusting during and outside of your training camp or you’ve simply outgrown that weight class and it is time to move up. The take home point here is that the closer you can stay to your competition weight at maintenance calorie intake the better off you’ll be.

Very low carbohydrate diets

I see this happen a lot in weight specific sports and in my opinion it is NOT the best approach. Going low carb will help with weight loss but not because you are cutting carbs but because you’re in a calorie deficit through the lack of carbs. There are 4kcals per gram of carbohydrate. If you cut carbs out that is a hell of a calorie deficit based on 4kcal per gram. An average recreational gym goer would be on anywhere between 200g to 300g of carbs a day to help with performance. 300g x 4kcal = 1200kcal. Try cutting that from your diet and maintain training intensity. It’s just not going to happen. Depending on the size of the athlete and training intensity, it is likely that double the amount of carbs will be required for boxers. As I mentioned before, it is very important to choose a method of weight loss that

  • Works for your preferences
  • Gets the desired results
  • Is sustainable and still allows you to train at the required intensity

Going low carb for too long will lead to carbohydrate depletion. The end result is poor physical and mental performance. Therefore, low carb diets are not a good idea when it comes performing better, feeling better and actually looking better. Take home point here is that low carb diets will achieve weight loss but your performance is likely to suffer greatly.

Carbohydrate and Calorie Cycling

When dieting for long periods of time there are reductions in metabolic rate, thyroid hormone output, sympathetic nervous system activity, spontaneous physical activity and reproductive hormone output (Testosterone and Estrogen). In other words your body is smarter than you. It will not allow you to diet yourself into oblivion and will deploy all sorts of clever evolutionary systems to stop you from losing weight, AKA the dreaded plateau. The body loves homeostasis (normality) and will do everything it can to maintain that normality.

So what can the athlete do to maintain ongoing weight loss and maintain performance when their body is forever trying to stop them from losing weight?

The athlete can incorporate frequent high calorie and high carb days to maintain performance but infrequently enough that weight loss is still possible. As I said at the start of this article, there are many ways to skin a cat.

Frequent, Moderate Re-Feeds

This can occur every 3 days during times where you have to cut calories to make weight. It is a good idea to eat as much as possible for as long as possible. It is probably a good idea to plan your most intense training sessions for your re-feed days. This is so that the extra energy can go into building muscle and recovery. A re-feed is exactly that. You will give your body a re-feed of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores. This is no excuse to go and binge and eat junk food. Maintain what you have been eating throughout but simply eat more of the carbs. The athlete’s calorie intake on these days should be roughly 1.5 times more than their lower calorie days. Therefore, if you are consuming 2000kcal a day to cut weight, a good rule of thumb is to re-feed at 3000kcal with the extra calories coming from an increased carb intake. If you’re losing weight comfortably then you may be able to get away with additional re-feed days. It will be a case of trial and error as everybody responds differently.

For more from Nick Danks see www.facebook.com/SustainableNutrition84 or contact nickydanks84@gmail.com.

May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016
Joseph Parker

Photosport

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ON both sides of the Atlantic, the heavyweight division is alive and kicking. After years in the doldrums, boxing’s giants have now awoken from their slumber, and the world finds itself captivated by the sport’s big men once again. Across the globe and under the radar in New Zealand, a storm has been brewing for some time. With each passing year since its inception in mid-2012, this tempest has gradually gathered momentum. And now, in 2016, a severe storm warning has been issued for the heavyweight category on a worldwide scale. The name of this violent hurricane that is threatening to wreak havoc in the sport’s glamour division? Joseph Parker.

Prior to descending upon the professional ranks just over three-and-a-half years ago, the genesis of Storm Parker began in the unpaid code, where Joseph compiled a record of 50-8, and claimed medals at both the Youth Olympic Games and the Youth World championships in 2010. He has subsequently carried this success over into the pros, winning all 18 of his bouts so far, including 16 inside the distance. It is clear from these statistics that the 24-year-old Kiwi packs a serious punch, but as the man himself explains, power is just one aspect of his game: “My best attributes are my fast hands, confidence, mental toughness and ambition. Plus I’ve got a chin that has never let me down.”

Parker’s rapid rise up the heavyweight ratings – he is highly ranked by all four of boxing’s major governing bodies (WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO) – has been assisted by his trainer and countryman, Kevin Barry, who earned a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics, and has coached Joseph since his fifth pro fight. The 56-year-old resides in Las Vegas, which is the chief reason why his charge decided to base himself in Sin City too.

“I live in Las Vegas primarily for the quality training with Kevin, as well as the good opportunities for sparring,” Parker states. “There are no distractions for me there. It’s ironic really, as Vegas is the party capital of the world, but I’m fully focused on healthy living, good nutrition, and learning in the gym.

“[Having previously trained world-level fighters such as David Tua, Maselino Masoe and Beibut Shumenov], Kevin is a very experienced and knowledgeable coach. Our partnership is working well, both inside and outside the ring. Together, we’ve made great progress in a relatively short space of time. I feel safe, confident and relaxed during fights, knowing that Kevin has my back.”

Despite having made a home for himself in America, all bar four of Parker’s pro outings have been staged in his native New Zealand. Fighting on home turf, the Auckland-born puncher has secured some recognisable scalps. In only his sixth bout, he swept aside veteran three-time world championship challenger Francois Botha inside two rounds, while seasoned ex-global title contestants Brian Minto and Kali Meehan were also dealt with early.

Parker went back to his ancestral roots by competing in Samoa, where his parents hail from. On a personal level, it was a proud moment for Joseph and his loved ones. It was also an important milestone from a professional standpoint, as it marked the first time Parker had opposed a southpaw as a pro.

“I stopped [then-25-11-2] Jason Bergman [in eight sessions] in Samoa,” Joseph points out.

“It was certainly challenging adjusting to a left-handed opponent, especially as Bergman was defensive and durable. But I’m happy I overcame the challenge, and learned more in the process.

“The fight meant a lot to me, my family, my team and the nation of Samoa. It was a truly historic event – the first major, internationally televised, high-level boxing event staged in Samoa. It’s great that my promoters, Duco Events, could make it happen.”

With the heavyweight scene currently booming in both Britain and the US, Parker is aware that he will soon have to leave the nest in New Zealand, in order to showcase his talents to a wider boxing public.

“Fighting in the major boxing centres of the world is part of my plan,” Parker reveals. “It’s no secret that the UK is on the verge of a very exciting era in heavyweight boxing, whereby great rivalries will play out between the likes of Fury, Joshua, Haye and perhaps [Dereck] Chisora. It’s likely that I’ll fight in the UK or the US this year. My promoters have reached out to Joshua’s promoters, and I can confirm that I’m ready to fight whenever he is. So far though, Joshua’s promoters have shown no interest in the match-up.

“I’m ready and willing to pursue a world title the old-fashioned way, by taking tough and risky fights that are necessary… These days, there’s too much record-padding and politics in boxing, which often prevents the fights that the public wants to see from happening. I hope a new post-Klitschko era in the heavyweight division will see great rivalries play out, like during the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe era. I’d be proud to play a part in a revitalised heavyweight division, where the best fighters face each other.”

While Parker mentions many names as possible future opponents, one senses that a certain clash in particular appeals to him more than any other – namely a mouth-watering meeting with fellow unbeaten Joshua. There are similarities between the two top prospects, with both men possessing pulverising power, and each being around their mid-20s. Nevertheless, Joseph feels that he is further advanced than “AJ”, having taken part in more than twice as many pro rounds as the Briton.

“I believe I’m ahead of Joshua in terms of my development as a boxer,” Parker opines. “I’d love to fight him. It’s a fight I’ll absolutely take if the opportunity arises. I respect him and his team, but like any opponent, he has both strengths and weaknesses.”

Although the potential career-defining contests for Parker seemingly lie in the UK and/or US, there are still some marketable matches to be made much closer to home for the 6ft 4in New Zealander, including an Auckland derby against rugby star-cum-boxer Sonny Bill Williams. “I’m vastly more experienced than Williams, so I don’t think it’s a match-up that his team would ever really consider,” says Parker. “Whilst it might generate headlines, I don’t think it’d be a successful event, because the boxing media and educated fans wouldn’t take it seriously.”

Following five appearances in both 2014 and 2015, Parker is planning to maintain his impressive level of activity this year. By the end of the annum, he hopes to have manoeuvred himself into a position to box for the richest prize in sport.

“I want five fights again this year, stepping up the level of opposition steeply throughout the year,” Parker confirms. “There’s no fight I’d avoid if it gets me to the top.”

This feature was originally published in Boxing News magazine