On the eve of one of the biggest fights in New Zealand boxing history, a bizarre skirmish has broken out between the opposing camps.
The source of the antagonism: a gift of boxing gloves from the Joseph Parker camp to Junior Fa’s trainer Eugene Bareman that was quickly reneged upon.
Following the weigh-in at Auckland’s viaduct, Parker and Fa’s respective entourages retired to a nearby room along with representatives from the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association and the World Boxing Organisation.
It is here the rules of the fight are run through and the gloves are inspected.
It’s a tedious procedure that should have been made smooth by an agreement that each fighter’s gloves had to be factory made and they had to be delivered sealed before being opened by the NZPBA’s Pat Leonard.
Once the gloves are OK’ed by all parties and signed off, it usually spells the end of any pre-fight intrigue, but on this occasion it was just the start.
Bareman asked Parker if he could have one of the spare pairs as a souvenir each fighter brings three pairs, valued at about $500 each, but only one is set aside for the match and the fighter agreed.
That much has been verified by witnesses. From there it gets a bit murky.
It appears Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry saw Bareman leaving with the gloves and objected.
A Duco employee was handed the unenviable task of tracking Bareman down and securing the return of the souvenir.
“It was very, very strange behavior,” Bareman said. “She tried to snatch the gloves out of my hand. For a moment there I felt like I was being robbed.”
After inquiring as to what was going on, Bareman was told that he couldn’t have the gloves because he would have the advantage of being able to cut them open and analyse what was in them.
That raised Bareman’s antenna to high alert.
“These are meant to be factory gloves,” he said. “Why would I want to cut this pair open? I should be able to go into a shop or order them online if I wanted a pair to cut open and see what was in them.
“It’s just highly suspicious behaviour.”
Fa’s manager Mark Keddell is also disturbed by the Parker camp’s gift-return policy.
“What are they hiding that they then wanted them back so desperately?”
Bareman said his position made him responsible for his athlete’s safety and that there were many ways gloves could be manipulated to give fighter’s an advantage.
He was not accusing Parker and Barry of doing anything untoward, but the events have “left me no choice” but to insist the officials and each camp reconvene on the day of the fight to re-inspect the gloves, including cutting the spares open.
Parker’s manager David Higgins described the brouhaha as “a waste of everybody’s time” and said there was a simple, innocent explanation for the scenes.
“Kevin didn’t want to give them a $500 gift the day before the fight. The gloves were inspected by officials and signed off by Eugene. The rest is just bull***.
“If they really want a souvenir they can come and see me after Joseph beats Junior and I’ll give them some free gloves.”