Parker v Chisora: Kiwi heavyweight star Joseph Parker reveals impact of alleged drug link

Kiwi heavyweight Joseph Parker is using his recent out-of-ring drama as fuel for his competitive fire, as he prepares a run at a second world heavyweight title.

Last month, Parker was revealed as the sports star linked to a major international drug importation and supply conspiracy. He was never charged in relation to the case, due to insufficient evidence.

He managed to keep his name suppressed through two years of hearings, before the Supreme Court ordered it lifted. 

Now based in the UK, where he's preparing to fight Derek Chisora on May 2 (NZ time) - the South Aucklander insists he's at peace with the ordeal, which has only added to his motivation to re-establish himself among the heavyweight division's elite.

"I know what's true and I know there are a lot of things that have been said about me," Parker tells Newshub. "I can't really talk about it, as I've taken advice from my lawyer to not talk on this topic.

"But as long as I know the truth and as long as I know what I'm here for - focusing on the fight and on the future and staying positive, staying happy, making the most of my opportunity - I'm okay.

"It's pushed me even harder to focus on my goal and train even harder, and I feel like I've given it more this camp.

"I'm just focused on winning and on the goal of being two-time world champion. I feel like I have tunnel vision.

"All I have to focus on is training, eating and sleeping and being the best that I can be, and - as a fighter - that's all you want to think about."

The 29-year-old had already arrived at his new base in Morecambe, when news broke of his alleged links with the drug-trafficking ring. He admits knowing his family back home would potentially be caught up amid the drama was difficult.

Parker has his hand raised in victory against Junior Fa in February.
Parker has his hand raised in victory against Junior Fa in February. Photo credit: Photosport

Ultimately, he credits wife Laine Tavita for giving him the peace of mind to remain focused on fighting. 

"My wife has been my soldier through this whole thing and she's really helped me get through it,” he says. “I give her a lot of credit for holding it down back home and being the strength in our family.

"I know that everything back home is good - that everyone is safe and my wife is doing a tremendous job looking after our three beautiful daughters - and my mind is clear."

Parker's fight against Chisora will be his first in eight years without long-time trainer Kevin Barry in the corner, agreeing to part ways after his win over Junior Fa in February.

After a couple of months working under new trainer Andy Lee, Parker says the move has rejuvenated him as a fighter, both mentally and physically.

"Just being in an environment where everybody I'm training with wants to be the best, everyone's encouraging each other and pushing each other," says Parker of the contrast with his former training base.

"It's different to the set-up I had in Vegas, where I'd go to the gym and train, and Kevin would train me and his son would be there.

"It was all good, but it's different when you have people training with you and everyone has the same goal of being the best in the world."

The irrepressible energy of WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury - Lee’s second cousin - has also provided a constant source of inspiration.

"Tyson is a person who gives out positive energy," he says. "No matter who you are - a sparring partner or someone who wants to go for a casual class - he pushes everyone and encourages everyone to push through when times get hard.

"It's just great to be around that energy."

After a string of - by his own admission - subpar displays, Parker realises his professional career is at somewhat of a crossroads.

Although he's currently riding a four-fight win streak, Parker is the first to admit the manner of those victories wasn’t at the standard required, if he's to demand marquee match-ups needed to get back to the top.

But under Lee, Parker feels he is rediscovering the strengths that carried him to WBO world championship glory in 2016, spelling danger for Chisora, when they meet in Manchester next month.

"I know I belong at the top, but the performances I've had of late haven't been the best," Parker confesses.

"I know I've had a few knockouts here and there… but they weren't clean and it wasn't exciting. I want to be the exciting fighter that I was at the beginning of my career.

"In the Fa fight, [Lee] thought I was doing one thing too many times. He's excited, because he can see there are a lot of things to work on and adjust, and if I do them right in a fight, we can see some great benefits.

"If I can show people what I'm showing Andy during sparring - the speed, the movement, the way I'm putting punches together - that's what I was known for.

"I moved too far away from that and became defensive, throwing one or two punches at a time.

"I think if I can make [Chisora] miss, tire him out, move around, wrestle with him - there are many ways we can attack him."

Beyond Chisora, Parker’s next steps are moving his family to England and renegotiating a new deal with promoter Eddie Hearn at Matchroom Boxing.

"It's hard to be away, but I'm very happy to be here in a new camp, new environment,” he says. “I'm giving everything I can every single day to make it worth being away."

Join us on May 2 for live updates of Joseph Parker v Derek Chisora