Tyson Fury brings star power to Joseph Parker fight in Melbourne

A jet-lagged Tyson Fury has brought the star power and entertainment to Melbourne for his friend Joseph Parker’s fight against Faiga Opelu.

Fury, the WBC heavyweight champion, joined Parker at this afternoon’s press conference ahead of the Wednesday night show at the Margaret Court Arena and, in between occasional profanities in a broadcast streamed live in New Zealand and Australia, he spoke about his Kiwi mate’s impressive preparation for his latest challenge.

The self-styled Gypsy King has travelled downunder to support Parker – a long-time ally away from the ring and occasional training partner in his home town of Morecambe in England.

“He’s very dedicated,” Fury said. “He has a different strength and conditioning trainer in George Lockhart, who is also his nutritionist. I’ve never seen him in this shape before. He’s ripped.”

Lockhart, an American who works with Fury, has also trained Conor McGregor and fellow UFC star Daniel Cormier.

Fury added of Parker’s opponent Opelu, an Australian Samoan with the nickname “Django”: “I know this lad comes to fight as well - he’s big puncher and he’s had some good knockouts, so I’m expecting fireworks.”

For Parker, the fight in Australia – the first time he has fought there – against a journeyman in Opelu who has had three losses and two draws in a 20-fight professional career, is something of a come down for a former WBO heavyweight world champion.

It will be Parker's second fight this year after his disappointing performance against Jack Massey in January. He said he wants to fight twice more in 2023.

Moreover, it's a chance for him to stay busy and fight in front of his Kiwi and Samoan supporters across the ditch, but the bout no longer carries the relative prestige of a Commonwealth heavyweight title fight.

The belt was originally up for grabs but Opelu and his camp refused to accept the need to extend the fight from a scheduled 10 rounds to 12, as required for the title, without re-negotiating the contract.

“I’ve been told money got in the way or something,” Parker's manager David Higgins said.

Opelu said: “It was a great opportunity for fight for a prestigious title but beating Parker will be the thing that everyone is talking about.”

Parker: “I was excited to fight for the title… a lot of great names have fought for the title, including Tyson himself. I’ll fight 15 rounds - I don’t care how many rounds there are… but it is quite disappointing.”

One of Opelu’s major scalps is the previously undefeated New Zealand heavyweight Hemi Ahio, whom Opelu beat in Melbourne last October.

But Parker, who towered over Opelu in the face-off at the conclusion of the press conference, said that would count for little.

“I know Django has had some good wins but I ain’t no Hemi,” Parker said. “And I ain’t anyone on his list. I’m a different fighter.

“I’ve had a great camp… I’m ready to put on a good show. I’m in great shape, it’s the best shape I’ve been in a long time. So, watch out.

“I feel like in 10 years of boxing this has been one of my best preparations ever, even before winning the world title. This fight is going to be very different.

“I feel sorry for Django because he’s in the one in front of me and he’s a fellow uso, a fellow brother, but he’s going to get the full force.”

Parker added in a television interview afterwards: “He is a lot shorter than I am so I’m going to fight like the big man and bash him up.”

Afterwards, Fury confirmed he was still in negotiations with Oleksandr Usyk for a world heavyweight title unification bout.

Fury added that he was keen to fight in Australia and would be looking at possible venues “up and down the country”.

Asked if he was serious, he replied, smiling: “100% about fighting here.”