Perhaps being contented, no matter the outcome, is knowing that you've done all that you can.

If you're a sprinter, when the lactic acid burns your lungs so fiercely you wonder if you'll ever regain your breath. If you're a public speaker, and you've rehearsed your speech a thousand times and noted it on colour-coded cue cards.

If you're a boxer about to fight for four heavyweight boxing world titles before 80,000 people, about 79,000 of them want you to lose, and almost everyone expects you will, but for three months you reckon you've done every bit of preparation right, and you really believe you can win.

Then maybe you look like Joseph Parker does in the week before all this happens to him. As George Costanza bellowed at Jerry Seinfeld: "Serenity now."

I spent the last days before Parker fought Anthony Joshua for the WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight championships of the world following him around, sitting on buses, leaning on gym walls, watching. Never saw him frown once. Suspect he doesn't have any frown furrows on his forehead.

The philosophy of Parker's trainer, Kevin Barry, an intense, never-relaxed perfectionist: "If you prepare properly, you have peace with yourself."


Before the big dance

Down a cobbled alleyway off the South Bank of the River Thames, through the red door underneath the third railway arch, Bakerloo Lines trains thumping overhead, and into the gym owned by former heavyweight world title contender David Haye.

You couldn't find it unassisted: I'm guided in by Joseph Parker's affable father, Dempsey. Haye loans them the gym simply because Parker's promoter David Higgins once saw him on the street, got chatting, and Haye said they were welcome anytime. Haye’s actually here himself, training for a fight against fellow Brit Tony Bellew. Dempsey, as keen a boxing student as any, immediately goes over to watch.

Parker's already done some sprints and stretching work at 7am, but he's here for his final session inside a proper boxing ring, working the pads with Barry, with sparring partner Malik Scott, his work now concluded as training tapers, leaning on the ropes and offering compliments.


When they train, Barry - who took David Tua to a world title fight against Lennox Lewis back in 2000 - continually whispers to Parker with a look of anger on his face.

“I will use every trigger and every tool right up to the night,” Barry explains.

Sometimes they stop and the tone changes to casual chat (“it’s no dictatorship"). The talk is always of Anthony Joshua, what he will do, how he will move, how to anticipate it.

That night finds Parker, wearing a herringbone suit, a grey and blue tie, blue pocket square, in the penthouse suite of New Zealand House, which offers sweeping views across the city. The suits are his call.

"They mean you are here for business; you want to be taken seriously."

About 80 expats, including Zinzan Brooke, rower Rebecca Scown and actor Nick Afoa, drink Yealands wine and Yeastie Boys beer and are generally enraptured by the champ, who tells them he’s under no pressure.

Higgins is fizzing at how well he spoke. Public speaking comes well to Parker now.

"I'm a lot more confident than I was when I first started out," he says. "It's not a burden."

Already there's a sense, which only grows as the week progresses, of a remarkable combination of relaxation and infectious confidence around Parker and his group. They genuinely feel they’ve done everything they can.

“If we lose, we lose because Joshua was better,” says Barry.

It's something he will keep telling me all week.


Anthony Joshua and Joseph Park face off Anthony Joshua and Joseph Park face off

The pre-fight press conference is one of boxing's best-loved traditions, the moment where the two fighters, their trainers and promoters sit at an elevated table like a wedding party, then talk trash and pose up the ritual staredowns for the photographers.

“Psychologically, we’ve got the foot on the throat.”

That's Higgins speaking. He's Parker's effervescent, eccentric, deep-thinking promoter, the boss of Duco Events, which puts on boxing and black-tie dinners.

Higgins has deliberately baited and riled Anthony Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn into agreeing to this fight, which will give the winner three of the four world titles that really matter in boxing.

Higgins says Hearn was initially lukewarm, arguing Parker had no profile in the UK, so he mocked Joshua and pumped up his man, making late-night cold calls to British boxing writers. It felt uncomfortable, he says, but politeness would never have worked.

Hearn and Higgins have an intriguing relationship: publicly they mock each other; privately they exchange jokingly-abusive phone calls and texts. The final fight contract was signed at Hearn's country mansion office, Higgins clothed in a white singlet, no shirt, because he said the thermostat was turned too high.

Duco want to win outside the ring too, and the best way is turning the heat on Joshua, who they think is given very gentle treatment by a cowed British press (on Monday, he declined to talk to the Kiwi journos after they travelled north to his training base in Sheffield to see him).

The Duco plan for the press conference is to turn up early, and then threaten a walk out if Joshua, a habitually poor time-keeper, is late.

“Basically,” says Higgins, “he’s f..... either way: because he’s done what I’ve told him [and turned up], or he’s late and he’s rude to his fans and the media. He’s got to have a sleepless night.”

Parker doesn’t. On Tuesday morning, he has typically a long breakfast at a long table in the executive dining room on the 12th floor of the Park Plaza hotel, surrounded by his friends and trainers, goes for a massage, and is in chirpy form when he turns up in reception as the whole caravan moves out of London. There’s so much luggage a second van has to be hired to carry it all along, but eventually most of the 30 seats on the bus are filled and it rolls off west.

As the bus drives along Brompton Road, Higgins decides he'll threaten to walk off-stage at the conference if Hearn takes his usual tack of dominating things. Parker sits quietly, watching a Showtime promo for the fight on his phone. He's good at ignoring things that don't directly impact him. Barry tells him not to change his approach, to keep saying what he believes.

Higgins reads out his Twitter direct messages, which are usually from British fans vainly trying to rile him. “Higgins, you really are a complete c....” Laughter.

The bus arrives at Sky Television’s headquarters in Isleworth, west London, a complex so big it has its own internal shopping mall. The gateman jumps aboard to distribute passes. “I’ve been telling all my mates to get on the Kiwi,” he declares. “He’s going to knock him out.”

There might be 50 or so journalists present, but probably another 700 Sky employees clustered around the stairwells rising above the main hall, almost all waving their cameraphones as Joshua and Parker emerge.

The boxers sit at a top table with their promoters (Hearn and Higgins) and trainers (Barry and Rob McCracken) and Sky's boxing caller Adam Smith.

The New Zealanders believe that Hearn's extra bluster is cover for Joshua because his man isn't the brightest button.

So Higgins leaps in first, challenging Hearn to let the fighters do the talking. Hearn immediately picks on one of Higgins’ tics, a perpetually-jogging leg and says: “If your leg doesn’t stop shaking I’m gonna have to move.”

Higgins responds with a dig at the fact that Hearn inherited his Matchroom Sports agency from his father Barry, saying: “I can smell the silver spoon on your breath”.

Later, he pursues Hearn’s offsider, Frank Smith, around the complex with a teaspoon, demanding he present it to his boss.

The top-table chat is merely a precursor to a series of conversations with the British media. Parker, Barry and Higgins' patience with them is remarkable. They walk up and down a line of television cameras for an hour, then wait in a green room for another hour to speak to the gentlemen of the print media.

In that time, Joshua has managed to tweet a photo of the stare-down with the caption ‘ooh scary’.

It flashes up on the Sky News coverage playing on the television. Parker looks up briefly, and says dismissively: “Childish”.

“You are a clown, you are a fool, there is a village missing an idiot somewhere": Higgins is reading out his DMs again.

Nobody complains about the wait. This tolerance of the incessant demands of the British media is all part of Duco’s long game. They’ve patiently courted them, and now the local hacks are in love.

The short term reason is that if Parker gets positive media, it makes the fight appear a more equal prospect, pushes more betting money on Parker, and more bets tends to equal more pay-per-view purchases.

While Higgins has been occupied lately stitching up broadcast deals with places like American Samoa, the big variable that will decide how much they all earn is pay-per-view sales in England and New Zealand. An extra 500,000 British sales equals another $5m.

In the final few days before the fight, the word is that most money in both Britain and New Zealand is going on Parker.

The long term reason for being nice to everybody is that a love-in with the newspapers establishes a beachhead for Duco in England. It means they can push other projects here, and it means Parker will have the name recognition to keep fighting here (someone compares him to Jonah Lomu as a figure the British could come to admire), where the paydays are better than at home.

“The British media like us - we are chilled and relaxed,” says Barry.

“We did a great job of getting the fight, we’ve done a great job of selling it. We’ve driven it, not Anthony Joshua and Eddie Hearn.”

Even the fanboy online boxing channels get time with Parker.

Duco's media guy, former television sports reporter Craig Stanaway, says it doesn’t cost them anything, it stops them turning into trolls, and it adds to the general feel that Parker is one helluva nice guy.

And they’ll take absolutely all publicity. In one interview, Parker, who usually chooses his words diligently, mocks Joshua for his press conference-punctuality, saying it makes him Higgins’ “bumboy”. He doesn’t mean anything by it but it could cause a storm. Stanaway can’t believe the journalist didn’t use it. He wouldn’t have minded if they did. "In this business, left is right, up is down, black is white - the opposite always applies,” he says.

And in the background of all these manoeuvrings is the looming divorce settlement between Higgins and his longtime Duco business partner, former league international Dean Lonergan. It's close to resolution.

Lonergan is in town, but invisible. He will still take a profit share as partner. Post-split, Higgins will get custody of Parker (they've become good friends), while Lonergan, who has decamped to Australia, will keep their other boxer, Aussie middleweight champ Jeff 'the Hornet' Horn.

So there's an added element for Higgins, and his Duco team, to show they can get it all done without Lonergan. In one aside, Higgins says one thing that drives him is people assuming he's an idiot.



Onwards to Cardiff.

The bus trip is long, slow and boring. After three hours rumbling along the M4, people become slightly restless, but there’s none of the silliness you’d get from a sports team after a long road trip - there’s just some jokes and singing. But as the bus pulls into the St David’s Hotel, a five-star hotel perched on the edge of Cardiff Bay, TVNZ’s Andrew Saville waits outside with a cameraman. Barry leaps up with a warning to everyone in the crew: "These next few days are the most important days of his life ... so everyone get him behind him, don't put yourself first, put him first."

Barry wasn’t sure if they would train on Tuesday night, given the long drive. But it’s 8.10pm, and they’ve found a small room beside the hotel gym, evicting a keep-fit class to claim the space.

Dempsey and a couple of Parker's friends sit on the floor watching. One keep-fitter walks in and says to the gym instructor: “You’ll never guess, I only went and entered a half-marathon.”

Parker rips into Barry’s abdominal guard with a left hook that, when it lands crisply, sounds like a fire-door slamming shut in an empty concrete corridor.

The guard, essential to stop Parker’s body punches slowly destroying his trainer’s internal organs, is made of thick, fibreglass-lined padding. Parker has previously broken four of them.

“He has such a great bodyshot, it’s always a plan to use it more and more,” says Barry between rounds.

“The bodyshot, the liver shot, that combo can change a whole fight. It f...... hurts.”

Barry had a headache before this, but it’s cleared. Now he and Parker walk that slow figure-of-eight known to every boxer and his trainer and Barry’s eyes are wired, his jaw pumps gum and his chin juts.

Barry is detail-obsessed: “‘That’ll be ok’: that will never be me. Everything has to be the best you can possibly be.”

It's an intense approach that extends to having Parker live in his Las Vegas home for the nine months a year they train together.

Training itself is run similarly: he takes all the sessions, always holding the pads, taking the thunderous force of Parker’s jabs. It takes a toll. At 58, he says he's lived with pain every day for a decade. Both shoulders, both wrists and both ankles are buggered; he’s also got a hernia.

He’s changed bedrooms at the hotel for one which is easier to get in and out of the shower because of those ankles, one of which is five years overdue an operation. Barry has begun thinking about where it all ends.

His daughter, Jordi, used to ask when she was younger why he never had a proper job. This week, for the first time ever she sees Barry train Parker and is aghast. The long-term aim is for Barry to hand the family business to son Taylor, who is here as his assistant.

Taylor never boxed - Barry made a promise to his wife Tanya, who hates it - but he knows the sport intimately. But right now? "The buck has to stop with someone. And I'm where it stops."


It’s cold in Cardiff. The wind whips up off the bay and makes it feel even colder.

On Wednesday, Joseph Parker’s entire time outside the hotel is the four seconds it takes to walk from the front door and alongside the building into the gym entrance. Barry does not want him getting ill, and has been forever seeking out hand sanitiser, and insisting on fistbumps for greetings instead of handshakes.

"We don't want any excuses," says Parker.

So he eats breakfast, trains, incongruously, in the Roald Dahl Suite, a carpeted second-floor lounge improvised into a ring with the addition of a New Zealand flag strapping-taped to the wall and a large sign advertising the fight.

He has a prawn salad for lunch with cousin Poasa, goes for a nap, meets some guys from London who for some reason have driven up to gift him a new duffel coat (to which he becomes very quickly attached).

In the early evening, he conducts 14 radio interviews back to back without a pause and still emerges smiling. Freelance cameraman Kerry Russell has been following Parker everywhere for the last fortnight to produce a documentary for Sky Television. “He’s the best athlete you’ve ever dealt with in your life, by a mile,” he says.

That night, each of the fighters are summoned to the Cardiff Town Hall for some public shadow boxing and pad work, a strange, backfiring promotional tactic given the hall is only half-full.

Chauffered vans deliver Parker et al to the stage door, with a walk up concrete steps lined with portraits of old music-hall stars like Ivor Novello and Tessie O’Shea leading to a room where everyone sits, and waits, the boredom punctuated by a visit from Eddie Hearn (everyone wants selfies).

Once in the ring, Parker trots gamely through 15 minutes of not a lot, Barry smiling. “We're going to show very little,” Parker tells me.

Parker’s entourage, who had decided to wear matching white 'Parker' T-shirts with 'Pie King' on the back (a reference to a stinging criticism from British TV host Graham Norton that Parker looked like he ate plenty of them), stand in a line at ringside, hold their phones in the air and live-stream it all to Instagram.

Imagine three circles around Parker. The widest circle is marshalled by his parents, Sala and Dempsey, and is comprised of various uncles and aunties, and a big group of fanatics, including several long-retired boxers, who've forked out $6000 for a VIP tour pass.

There's an inner circle who actually do the work - Barry, in his perfectionism, serving as combined trainer, manager and camp mother; Taylor Barry, who tends to deal with the equipment; the usually-silent John Parker, Joseph's brother who should have been on the undercard; and then Kevin's brother Bryan, who worked Tua's corner with him back in the day (including for the Lewis fight). If Barry is the straight man, Bryan is the comic sidekick. “He’s a funny bastard,” says Kevin. “I’m sort of the yin to his yang,” says Bryan, who is rarely without a smile.

And there's a middle circle, a wider entourage which goes everywhere with Parker. This group includes two cousins, Poasa and Jarom, Parker’s schoolmates George and Ravi, an Australian called Kenton and an imposing but rather shy chap called Mafi, who usually wears sunglasses and a beanie and always carries a Go-Pro camera on a little tripod.

The entourage's role is to sit around, cheer on request, muck around when the atmosphere needs lightening. It’s impossible not to like them: all friendly, polite, don't get in the way, don't bring that stultifying air of machismo you often see in big groups of blokes with not much to do.

For Parker, they have a grounding effect. They all date to the days before fame, so can be trusted. Ravi Kumar, for example - a half-Samoan, half-Indian personal trainer and hip-hop producer - is a second cousin who was a Marcellin College contemporary of Parker. He used to drive Parker to 5am training sessions before he had a car, sleeping outside in the driver's seat while Parker worked out.

“Pretty much everyone has been there since day one. He's not wondering who's there and for what reason," says Ravi.

"Even if he wasn't at this stage of his career, we'd all be hanging out in South Auckland, doing something stupid. We've seen a lot of things people from our neighbourhood don't get to experience. He's opened a lot of doors for us, and we're pretty grateful for that."

Mafi, whose brother is married to Parker's sister Elizabeth, has four terabytes of video accumulated of all things Parker. He’s cut and posted to youtube some 500 gigabytes, and the rest he will bequeath to Parker as a retirement present. But his stocks rose dramatically when there was the prospect of a scuffle with the fearsome, multiple-criminal-convictions Fury family at the press conference before Parker fought Hughie Fury; he abandoned his Go-Pro and waded into the melee to defend his mate.

"The boys don't treat me any differently," says Parker.

"They treat me as the same guy they knew back then. They mock me, and I threaten to put them in General Admission [seats for the fight]."

Everywhere else he will go this week brings a constant clamour for photographs and autographs.

"Everyone else treats me like I'm a star, or this guy they see on TV. The boys still give me crap."

Through the week, the entourage are essentially surplus to requirements. On the night of the fight, their job is to play music, laugh, make jokes: keep everything relaxed.

"Most of the other fighters, their changing rooms are dead quiet, head down, serious," says Ravi.

''Us, we are mucking around, joking. It keeps him relaxed, it keeps him focused."

Barry, you might expect, would be wary of all this malarkey, but he's accepted it: “I said to him 'Joe these are your guys, these are my guys'. They’ve had an amazing journey on Joe. But that’s what you do, you look after your mates.”


The gathering around Parker swells as the week advances and more aunts, uncles and friends arrive at the St David's.

His training session on Thursday morning, back in the Roald Dahl suite, is supposed to be semi-private; eventually, chairs are arranged in two rows and over 35 people - even a couple of British journalists have slipped in - sit and watch, and at the end, Parker bows to them with a smile on his face. This camp is incredibly open. Bryan Barry says: "Why hide it away? We want you to enjoy it with us."

One reason for Parker's tranquility is the dollar-coin scars on his forearms, the traces of two rounds of surgery before Christmas. He's talked, carefully, of issues with both his elbows hampering him in previous fights. Actually, he says, it was the last seven fights. His left elbow joint was grinding bone on bone, never allowing him to fully extend it. Every movement was painful. Four rounds into his last fight, a world title defence against Hughie Fury, it felt useless. Now he's punching faster and harder.

"It's an amazing feeling now that it’s right," he says.

"I can throw with bad intentions without thinking 'is it going to hurt?' This is why I am way confident, and that's why there are no excuses. I'm 100 per cent confident. It's a fantastic mindset. That's why I've got no worries."

He shows me some videos of him working on some quite bizarre plyometric drills with an American weightlifting coach, designed to make him limber and full of explosive power. In one, he stands on a platform, chained to the floor, and leaps in the air.

We talk about his weekly sessions with a sports psychologist. He drinks a Waiheke bore water specially formulated with him with the levels of sugar and salt calibrated to replace precisely what he loses in an average training session. The guy who supplies it, Jesse Ball, has flown 1,000 litres over (and turned up himself).

While Parker is relaxed, he's never wholly relaxed. The fight is never far from his mind. He visualises a lot, playing potential sequences over and over in his mind.

"There's only pressure on you if you put it on yourself," he tells me later.

"The result is not heavy on my mind, because I know as long as I do everything right, prepare the best I can, that if he beats me, he is the best man on the day."


A lot of fighters wouldn’t train the day before a fight, but Parker has his routines, and so on Friday he insists on his standard six rounds of shadow boxing and pad work. So, unusually, he's running a little late by the time he takes to the limousines - now decorated with Joshua v Parker decals - for the weigh-in, a ten-minute drive away at a Cardiff indoor stadium.

The audience of 4000 have paid a $1 koha to be given to the family of a dead boxer and chant enthusiastically for Joshua and jeer almost everyone else.

Higgins is interviewed, and roundly booed as he patiently explains why Parker wins, so shouts at the crowd: “You can’t handle the truth.”

After a logistical nightmare, Duco staffer Carlena Limmer has located, transported and accommodated a kapa haka group to take the stage and welcome Parker. Joshua arrives to a marching band playing his signature tune, the White Stripes' ‘Seven Nation Army’.

Both strip to their undies and have their official weights recorded. Then there's the obligatory staredown, then Joshua, who had refused to shake on Tuesday, offers his hand to both Parker and Barry, and tells Barry what a good coach he is, which Barry clearly finds mildly amusing. You can’t help feel they are inside his head now.

The variations on the fight equation have been debated all week. A victory is fairly clear in its tremendous implications. The various gradations of defeat less so: a creditable points or late-round knockout loss would leave Parker in a position to rebuild and have another tilt. An early-round loss would dent his reputation.

With $10m in the bank and two children at home, would he have the motivation to fight again soon and the desire to take himself off to Las Vegas again? “It will change Joe’s life forever, it will change Duco, it will change Kevin Barry’s life,” says Barry.

For Stanaway, the Duco communications guy, it’s fairly clear a Parker defeat could leave him looking for a new job. "It's almost not too much to say that 36 minutes decides the next 36 years of your career," he says.

At New Zealand House, Parker had talked about how he regarded Lennox Lewis, less for his boxing, but his smarts in retiring early and refusing the comeback offers. Parker has made an ironclad promise to himself that turning 30 means the end. He has what he calls a 'set for life' bucket: once full, he's done.

Parker didn't go to university, but says studying the business of boxing has been his further education. Presently, he's reading about compounding interest, the finance manual Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the thoughts of financier Warren Buffett. Another of boxing's old traditions is the old pug who falls on hard times because of shonky advice.

"They blame others, and fairly so, but the person they should blame the most is themselves, for allowing others to take control and leaving themselves no say in it," Parker considers.

"If you take ownership yourself, and make a mistake, you take it on the chin. It hurts more if someone else does it."

His long-term plan, he says, is to become a promoter himself, of Pacific talent across sport and the arts.

Among those who’ve arrived in town are Scott McLiver, the Pricewaterhouse Coopers senior partner who advises Parker on finance, who has become a confirmed, Parker-shirt wearing fan.

“He’s exceptionally good at the detail of his affairs,” says McLiver.

“He’d be in the top half-percent of athletes for that interest in his business affairs. There are entrepreneurs who don’t give a s..., let alone athletes. There’s not one cent of Joe’s affairs he doesn’t take responsibility for.”

The day he returns to New Zealand from this trip, Parker will take possession of a brand-new house on one-acre section in Flatbush, South Auckland, which he's only seen online until now. He's also bought a trampoline and a playset to put up on the back lawn for his 16-month-old daughter, Elizabeth.

"No secret," says Barry, "this is a very lucrative fight. There's a lot of money in this fight. This fight sets up Joe for life. If he chose he would never have to fight again. But it's not the end of the journey. This is where the journey begins."


On the morning of the fight, most of the dining room is occupied by people somehow involved with the fight, a percentage that has stealthily increased each day as if they are secretly taking over the hotel.

Parker rolls in just before 8.15am and does a slow lap, greeting and hugging people.

“Joe doesn't really do the whole serious thing on the day,” says Ravi Kumar, who strolls in with him.

"He's more relaxed than the rest of us."

Next on the agenda is the team walk, a fightday ritual, before a visit to the stadium to see Parker's workplace for the evening. Parker moonwalks and dances in his dressing room, then walks out the tunnel for a rehearsal with Sky Television’s director of boxing, Sara Chenery.

Barry is tightly wound - he wants every detail to be right. He tests the tension of the ring apron, gets Parker to try out different types of stool for the corner, interrogates Chenery about timings and demands longer in the ring with Parker’s song playing before it’s cut off for Joshua’s ring walk.

Parker is the opposite of Barry, completely unintimidated by his surrounds. He glances at the stadium roof. "It's a nice stadium," he says. "I'll just take it all in, relax a little. Don't want to over-complicate it, let it flow, not think about it too much."

The plan for the rest of the day is to play Playstation and cards (some Last Card, Speed, and usually he and brother John play the Barry brothers at Euchre) and a nap. “The nap is probably the most important part. Three til five. That's not really a nap is it? More of a long sleep.”

As Parker winds up, Higgins is almost winding down. At about 5pm, he emerges from the hotel gym, and says: "If we win this fight, we will have conducted a f...... smash and grab raid on British boxing."

Shortly after 7pm, the whole entourage climbs into the two limousines for the drive through the swarming Cardiff streets to the stadium.

Obtaining enough of the yellow neck passes that secure backstage access has been a difficult logistical issue for Duco staffer Chrissy Ve, because the British Boxing Board of Control demands job descriptions for everyone present in the change room before a fight. So Barry’s son Mitch is the spiritual advisor, Ravi is the nutritionist (he’s the skinniest), big George is his conditioning coach, Poasa is the physio. 

Actually fitting them into the room isn't an issue. Parker is in the away dressing room at the Principality, a spartan but big concrete box that's previously hosted Real Madrid and the English rugby and soccer teams.

He has a lie down on a massage table, laughs with the entourage, then at about 8.45pm the laborious process of taping up hands, a layer of padding necessary to go under the boxing gloves, begins.

Each corner can send someone to watch the other prepare to ensure nothing's awry. And taping is interrupted partway through when someone, either Joshua's nominee or a board official, complains about the brand of tape Barry is using - one he's always employed.

Meanwhile, in the other dressing room, Taylor Barry is shouting at Joshua, accusing him of illegally massaging his gloves to loosen them up. They suspect gamesmanship and Barry Sr is furious. "He's in there f...... with the gloves? It's not this guy's first fight, he's got two world titles."

Parker is oblivious - he's been bodypopping to the music, doing some slow shadowboxing, Facetiming his daughter.

Then in comes the television floor manager. The lead undercard bout, between former champion Alexander Povetkin and David Price has just begun. If it ends inside three rounds, he says, a 'floating' bout will be added to the schedule to pad it out. If it goes longer, the float fighters will be stood down, and Barry will have 15 minutes from the moment it finishes to have his fighter ready to go.

Barry is unimpressed. He's been asking for an actual time to work towards all night, and this convoluted arrangement is news to him. As they debate, Parker and Povetkin both go down on the canvas during a fiery third round but survive. The fourth begins and straight away Povetkin drops Price; it's over. "No way are we walking in 15," says Barry, as Parker pulls on his gloves. A compromise is reached at 23 minutes.

"It's your night, baby," declares Malik Scott, Parker's laidback sparring partner.

The accountant, Scott McLiver, is now in charge of the countdown. Every five minutes he bellows out how long remains before Parker goes to work. At 10.04pm, Parker's gloves are on, tied, and taped down. An official scrawls on them to denote that they are acceptable, and he and the until-now silent Joshua cornerman leave the room. Time to get serious.

Parker begins hitting the pads. The first crisp shot brings a cheer.

"Five minutes," bellows McLiver. "You think Kev is deaf?" grins Parker.

But by now both men are wholly focused. Three minutes to go. The pads come off, the entire group quickly forms a circle, and Barry's son Mitch, a Mormon, calmly delivers a prayer for Parker's success: "We pray that he beat Anthony Joshua, if it be your will."

Ringwalks don't trouble Parker, he's told me - he's able to detach himself so he feels he's floating above his own body, looking down, even able to check if his hair is out of place. Surely this one is different though.

To leave the away dressing room at Cardiff's Principality Stadium, you walk through a pair of swing doors, turn left into a low-roofed concrete tunnel and walk about ten metres to an opening into the stadium. The ring is directly ahead, above it a giant big screen. Fans lean over from their seats five metres above, shouting, waving their phones. Parker is silent, still. There's a pause, then his name is called and he must begin the slow walk to the ring.

The 80,000 assembled jeer, boo, and sing Joshua's name. Fireworks are set off, flamethrowers pump waves of heat into the air. The atmosphere cannot help but send the tumble-driers in the stomach into overdrive. It is unbelievable. And now it's time. We all know now what happens next.


Spent any time in a losing dressing room? They're all like this. They are sombre places. Everyone talks much more quietly than is usual. Nobody smiles.

Parker has been immediately surrounded by a group of doctors, taking blood and urine samples, one of them stitching a cut above his rapidly-swelling left eye. "It's not a funeral, let's put some music on," he said as he came in. The music isn't having much effect.

Parker has already apologised to Barry. Barry is disappointed that Parker wasn't more aggressive, annoyed at the choice of a referee with poor English. "We will fight him again,” Barry says, “no doubt about it, it won't be immediate but why wouldn't we fight him again?"

Higgins is reading out supportive text messages from fellow boxer Tyson Fury and his father, Peter. He puts an arm around Parker, who isn't saying much, and promises he'll secure a re-match with Joshua. "Some fighters get broken [by a loss]," Higgins says. "Not Joseph Parker. Back on the horse. He's earned the respect of the British fans and the media. It was an amazing event to be part of. And we will be back."

By the time he's in transit at Los Angeles, where he shouts me a burger, Joseph Parker has analysed where he went wrong, determined to stay in training and to take another fight (maybe against Bellew) as soon as possible.

First it's time to go home: there's a trampoline to set up. Turns out, Anthony Joshua was the better man on the night. But he can live with that.

Joseph Parker: our hero, holder of one of the four main boxing world titles.
David Higgins: effervescent director of Duco Events, Parker's promoters (and thus financial backers).
Kevin Barry: Parker’s veteran ex-Olympian trainer.
Anthony Joshua: Parker’s sullen opponent, holder of two of the four main world titles.
Eddie Hearn: Joshua’s suave promoter, boss of Matchroom Boxing.
Craig Stanaway: bullish head of comms for Duco Events, ex-TV journo.
Bryan Barry, Taylor Barry: Kevin’s brother and son, and fellow cornermen.
Ravi, Mafi, George, John, Jarom, Poasa: Parker's entourage.
Sala and Dempsey: Mr and Mrs Parker to you.
Carlena Limmer and Chrissy Ve: Duco Events' engine room.
Thanks to Kerry Russell and Gareth Thorne for several of the images in this piece
Steve Kilgallon travelled to Cardiff as a guest of Duco Events. Duco Events had no editorial input into this story.
Animations: Tom Young
Design and layout: John Harford