Junior Fa’s New York-based promoter Lou DiBella is insisting that his man is not only much hungrier for success than his fellow Kiwi heavyweight opponent Joseph Parker, but that he is also a physically stronger and better all-round athlete.
In an interview with the Herald, the loquacious DiBella said that and the fact that Fa beat Parker twice when the pair were amateurs meant the showdown at Auckland’s Spark Arena next Saturday would be much closer than many are expecting.
Parker, the former heavyweight world champion who earned a multi-million dollar payday when losing his title to Anthony Joshua in Cardiff in 2018, will be a big favourite when the pair enter the ring.
But Fa’s apparent quick recovery from surgery in December, which forced the postponement of the fight, and his form in training recently, has provided his camp with an extra surge of optimism.
“People have to remember something; he beat Joe a couple of times already,” DiBella said. “Joe has never fought a guy in the pros who has beaten him a couple of times. I think Junior goes in with the confidence of knowing, even though it was only amateur, that he beat Joseph.
“Here’s another one, let me ask you a question; who’s the hungrier fighter?” Before the Herald had a chance to answer, DiBella replied: “Joe has already set himself up for life, and his kids and his grandkids. He’s had great success at the highest levels and Junior is hungry as all hell. He can change not only his life but the lives of generations of his family in one night.
“It’s a super significant fight – not only in New Zealand. On paper it’s probably the best heavyweight fight you’re going to see all year.”
While determined to talk up his client to the fullest extent possible, DiBella was reluctant to dismiss Parker’s talents and admitted the 29-year-old, who has a 27-2 professional record, had faced a better quality of opposition. Fa, aged 31, has a 19-0 record but has yet to enter the top echelon.
“I really enjoyed Joe Parker during this pandemic,” DiBella said. “He and his social media accounts helped me get through it because he’s a very talented guy.
“When this is all over maybe he can go to Hollywood. He’s got a great personality – he can sing, dance and act. He’s a very talented guy. But I don’t see the same hunger and fire in the belly that I saw earlier in his career and I think he’s looked more beatable in recent performances than before.”
DiBella added: “There’s no question that Junior is taking a huge leap up in quality of opposition but it’s not against someone on a completely different level. He knows that better than anyone because he’s shared a ring with the guy.
“As good as Joe is, and I think he is a tremendous heavyweight, I think Junior at 100 per cent is physically stronger than Joe.
“He’s been very strong in sparring. He has been pushing around his sparring partners in the ring. He’s also had a mean streak in sparring that we haven’t necessarily seen previously.”
DiBella said he was still negotiating with fight promoter (and Parker’s manager) David Higgins over the selection of the three judges. The Herald revealed on Friday that the camps were at loggerheads over the suggestion two Christchurch judges should make up the trio. Fa’s connections are complaining that that would be inappropriate given Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry’s respected standing in the tight-knight Canterbury boxing community.
“I do think there is an inherent, strong, bias towards Joe and Kevin Barry with respect to the officials that were selected,” DiBella said. “The last thing we need is … an outcome we might be questioning. It’s nothing personal.
“I don’t want to curse, but I don’t give a **** about what some local commissioner is insisting upon. This is one of the biggest heavyweight fights in New Zealand history and I don’t want a lack of objectivity on the part of the officials to be a factor in this fight.”
DiBella confirmed there would be a rematch if Fa beats Parker (that won’t apply if Parker wins).
“Yeah, and there should be,” DiBella said. “Parker is giving Junior this opportunity. And by the way, how big would that rematch be?”