Boxing: Junior Fa primed for heavyweight run after Deontay Wilder camp

Training with the world heavyweight champion has Kiwi Junior Fa primed for his impending assault on the division.

The Kiwi slugger is currently preparing WBC belt-holder Deontay Wilder for the American's title defence against compatriot Dominic Breazeale this weekend.

It's the second time Fa has played a key role in Wilder's fight camp, after spending time in Alabama before the Tyson Fury fight last year.

Promoter and manager Mark Keddell has seen a new aura of confidence in his heavyweight prospect, after exchanging offence with one of the hardest punchers in the history of the heavyweight division.

"Going through a Deontay Wilder camp gives him a bit of swagger, a bit of confidence that he knows he can compete with elite fighters," says Keddell.

"They took a punt on Junior and it's all worked out. They are so happy with the culture and work ethic he brings to their team, and how good he is.

"He gave Deontay good rounds ahead of the Tyson Fury fight - they kept him there for the whole four weeks.

"That last week of sparring is so important and they have Junior there again this time around.

"It's great for his development and I think you can assess that by the fact that Wilder wants him there at the key time."

Keddell has played the slow game with Fa's progression as a heavyweight boxer, although a debilitating illness almost ended the 29-year-old's life, let alone career.

Just over a year ago, tests discovered Fa had worryingly low iron and haemoglobin levels.

Doctors were astonished the Auckland-born boxer had survived a 10-round fight without suffering a catastrophic health scare.

Further tests revealed Fa was clear of cancer, but he underwent minor gastric surgery or face the end of his career.

Luckily, Fa made a full recovery and has seen a big upswing in his performances.

After coasting to a couple of lacklustre decision wins before surgery, Fa has a combined ring time of 4m 16s in his last two fights.

That, along with his sparring performances with the WBC champion has Fa considered a genuine heavyweight prospect.

With a WBO ranking of seven, Fa is closing in on the pack.

"There are some big fights coming up, so we're about to have a few guys leave the rankings," Keddell tells Newshub.

"If Dillian Whyte beats Oscar Rivas, he earns the mandatory [challenge] for the WBC, which would mean he slips out of the WBO ranking, so we could possibly be number four in the WBO in two months.

"We are not that far away.

"Junior is ready now. He has developed well over the last few years and this is his time to make his mark.

"We are looking at a skilled veteran next time out, just to test Junior's chin, get some rounds and shake off the rust."

And with matchmaking being such a pivotal part of the sweet science, Keddell is well aware that his fighter's career could well rest on whom Fa meets next.

Keddell thrives on that type of pressure, but says it's all about communication with your fighter and making sure they are always ready to fight.

Keddell was bemused fellow Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker turned down a fight with Dereck Chisora, despite a potential six-week training camp.

Team Parker felt a short turnaround against Whyte last year hampered the former WBO champion, who came up short in a thrilling fight.

Promoter David Higgins vowed they would never again agree to a fight with what they perceived as such a small window to prepare.

Keddell believes fight camps are a myth and in such a high-performance sport, fighters should be ready to go at all times of the year, injury permitting.

Team Fa celebrate victory over Rogelio Omar Rossi
Team Fa celebrate victory over Rogelio Omar Rossi. Photo credit: Photosport

"You don't need 10 weeks to prepare for a fight," he says. "Yes, sometimes you may be fighting an awkward opponent, so you'll need specific training for that, but you should always be ready to go.

"I think, in hindsight, David Higgins would probably say they didn't have enough preparation time for that fight.

"My counter to that would be you didn't have enough preparation time because you're not acting like an athlete the whole time.

"Now I'm not saying that is right or wrong for Joseph, but for me, it's a lot easier to be ready, if you are always in fight shape.

"It all comes down to money, as we know. It's a business first, a sport second.

"If the money was really good for Dillian Whyte, even in defeat, then it's still potentially a good fight. To be fair, he only just lost that fight - his stock didn't go down.

"Had he been a bit better prepared, he would have won that fight. It wasn't the wrong fight, I just think it's the job of the manager or promoter - in this case, David Higgins - to see where his fighter is at, before signing him up to fight."

But Keddell doesn't foresee such an issue for his charge. Fa's training regime at Auckland's City Kickboxing Studio in Auckland has him in the gym twice a day, six days a week.

fight club 26
Photo credit: Newshub.

Fa trains alongside UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and other MMA fighters, such as Dan Hooker and Kai Kara France.

Under the eagle eyes of head trainers Doug Viney and Eugene Bareman, CKB is fast establishing itself as the premier combat sports gym in Australasia.

"What Doug and Bareman do is create a culture of performance," says Keddell.

"Shane Cameron was a great example of a guy who trained every day and then when a fight would come up, he would adjust his training for that specific fighter - he was ready to go.

"That's essentially what the guys at CKB do. They are full-time athletes who train twice a day, as that's what elite athletes do.

"CKB has amazing coaches with an amazing culture. If you go to an Olympic-level high-performance conference, they will promote things like high-intensity training, vision and culture, and the importance of having people to drive that in place.

"That's what CKB have done. They have the vision to be successful and they have the right people in there - the rest is pretty easy."

A showdown with Parker is still a longshot, if you ask the opposing camp, but Keddell and Team Fa believe it's a fight that works in their favour.

While not discounting Parker's achievements, Keddell says, if that call ever came, the answer would be yes.

"Joseph has made it," says Keddell. "He was the WBO champion, who defended his belt a couple of times and then went 12 rounds with Anthony Joshua.

"No-one has ever done that. He will continue to get big-money fights the rest of his career, because he had a piece of real estate for a decent amount of time.

“Good on him for that. Our challenge is to make sure we get to a point where we get our hands on that piece of real estate, give a good account for ourselves and then we will always be on the picture.

"That's when you make money and if you keep winning, you get a  big payday and that's what Parker earned twice.

"But if David Higgins rang me today and asked if we wanted to fight Joseph Parker, we would fight him tomorrow.

"Happy days for us, because we feel good about that match-up."

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