Professional heavyweight boxer, Joseph Parker, has proved himself one of the great surprises to rise from the pandemic-induced global lockdown. While the rest of the world turns to banana bread, fitness videos and album covers, the twenty eight, 6ft 4in New Zealander has turned to acting, emerging from lockdown on his social media channels singing, dancing and recreating everything from Back To the Future to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
It was an unexpected move from a WBO Heavyweight champ, the man who went toe-to-toe with Andy ‘The Destroyer’ Ruiz to become the first heavyweight boxer from New Zealand to win a world title and who ended Anthony Joshua’s 20 fight knockout streak by taking him to the distance in 2018. Make no mistake, Parker is the real deal, which is what has made his videos so intriguing; as a rule of thumb, you don’t normally see big fighting men dancing around their house singing “build me up buttercup” or ”Grease lightning.” Well, you didn’t until now.
Over 1.5+m people have now viewed Parker’s videos, and the stars are lining up to get involved. Tyson Fury is there, Eddie Hearn’s involved, even silver-fox ring announcer Michael ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ Buffer can be seen having a boogie. “He was the person who surprised me the most,” laughs Parker when we catch-up with him late Sunday night. “I mean I never knew he had it in him. When I see Michael Buffer walking into the stadium, he’s relaxed, calm and cool, but when I asked him to dance, oh he was going for it.”
And how did you rope Fury and Hearn into the show?
That's the great thing about boxing, you build relationships, you make great friends and you meet amazing people. Believe it or not, Tyson Fury was the first person to send me a video for Build Me Up Buttercup and I was surprised - this the WC champion of the world, he’s got his own family, he’s busy, and he’s sending me a video! He can sing, he can move, he can dance and fortunately he was able to trust me with the footage and make a good video clip out of it.
What about Eddie?
Eddie Hearn, I sent him a few requests and I think that he must have been busy but he promised me he would be in one and he is a man of his word.
Did you have any idea your videos were going to be such a success when you started?
Not really. Kerry Russell, the guy that’s behind it all, he does the ideas, the creativity, everything and he said to me ‘it’s going to be a hit’, and I said, ‘hey let’s just have some fun, get together and hopefully others will have fun watching it.’
You play three different characters at once in the Back To The Future video. How long does it take to make a show?
Well, with Back To The Future, Kerry would say, ‘I have an idea’, I would say, ‘hit me with it’, and then he comes over. I haven’t left the house since the lockdown, so I’ve been at home for six weeks now, and Kerry helps with the groceries along with my sister and her husband. So he comes over, looks around the house, says, ‘Ok, we will do it here and here’…the last one we did took us a day, because the process is film, then laptop to edit, then film, then laptop to edit, but the others only took a few hours, it’s a lot of fun.
You’ve even done a blooper reel. It’s easy to forget that you’re not in a studio, you’re in a house, with a family, dealing with family stuff, it’s very real.
Yeah it’s very real. I have my family, there’s the training and filming, we have everyone running around and we still have to do the lunches, the dinners, all that stuff, so it keeps us busy. But these videos create memories; when I look back at this time in the future, when hopefully everything settles down, I can say to my kids, ‘Hey remember when we made some cool videos?’ and I’ll have something to show for it.
The only person on the planet who seems annoyed by your efforts is British heavyweight Dillian Whyte.
Ha, you’ve hit the nail on the head there. I mean, I think he’s just annoyed with me in general, the videos might have made him slightly more annoyed of course, but he’s annoyed with me calling him out and saying I want a rematch and that I can beat him. Listen he’s a good fighter, lot of respect for him, but I would love to fight him one day, it would be great to have a rematch and see how it goes because the first was a great fight
What are you like in general with trolls and negativity? Do you engage, or ignore?
Well a lot of people do write lovely messages, and I always try to reply because I think something small, like replying, will really brighten up their day. But I don’t pay attention to the negativity. If someone has come on and taken time to be negative, well they might be down about something and are just taking it out on me, so there’s no point having a back and forth, you just have to accept it and move on.
Tyson Fury’s version of your videos is fitness workouts for the nation. How are you keeping in shape during lockdown?
Every day I put in two or three hours in the gym and sometimes I train twice a day. I’m glad that before the lockdown I made my home gym. I’ve got a treadmill, weights, medicine balls, kettlebells, in fact the only thing I unfortunately don’t have is a punching bag, or a speedball, or boxing things in general…
…What? New Zealand’s greatest ever heavyweight boxer doesn’t have any boxing equipment in his gym?
All my boxing equipment is at my parents house! When I was growing up my dad built a gym at his house and we have two punching bags, speedball, everything. But when I bought my own house I didn’t shift anything over, so after lockdown I will work on putting some boxing equipment in here.
Talking of family, how important is your Samoan heritage to you?
For me it’s very important, and actually that’s why I try to make trips to Samoa every year. The Samoan people and government have been very supportive of my journey and they also been amazing at giving me a kick up the butt if I need to do better.
A kick up the butt?
Yeah, if I go over there a Samoan will stop and say, ‘Hey, you going to lose weight? What’s happening? You training hard?’. They are quite upfront and straightforward and you just gotta love them for that because they do care, and they want me to be successful in boxing, so they just give me a little bit of advice that they think might be helpful.
Other than acting, do you have any other skills they could give you advice on?
Well I had no idea I had some good acting skills, but if it wasn’t for boxing I would probably have been a carpenter. When I left school I actually had a scholarship for a carpentry course, but that was put on hold because I travelled so much as an amateur representing New Zealand, and every time I left and came back, I had missed the whole process of building a house.
And after lockdown, who are you hoping to see fight next, Fury and Wilder, or Fury and Joshua?
It’s not just me, everyone wants to see Joshua and Fury. Boxing fans and supporters around the world want to see who is the best and see one unified champion.
It’ll be a great fight, two great champions, but I back Fury to win that fight. He can box, he can fight, he can move, go forward, come back, yeah I think Fury can take him out.
Have you seen Mike Tyson training?
Yes, Looks like he’s still got power, speed, accuracy. He looks quite ferocious on that video we saw, right? Is he doing a comeback?
He’s talking of four round fights...
And finally, back to your lockdown shows. Will you continue the videos when things get back to normal?
I've had so much fun doing them I don’t see a reason why we should stop now so I think it’s something we continue to do. I don’t think we will be posting back-to-back videos because boxing will be the priority and that’s where a lot of the attention will go in terms of training, eating well and sleeping well. But the videos will always be there to do because firstly they are fun, and secondly they inspire, uplift and motivate and that’s a feel-good thing to do.