Joseph Parker and Lani Daniels. A combined record of 40-5. Both two-time New Zealand amateur boxing champions. One, a former WBO heavyweight champion, the other is the current IBF heavyweight titleholder.
With Daniels’ stocks rising
as one of New Zealand’s biggest names in boxing, it’s an opportunity for her to interact with the man who has been the face of the sport on these shores for the past decade.
While mixed martial arts have stolen the headlines when it comes to combat sports, boxing continues to stand on its own two feet in the country.
Names like Mea Motu, David Nyika, Jerome Pampellone and Andrei Mikhailovich are the sport’s new breed – a golden era in New Zealand.
But Joseph Parker remains at the front of the charge.
The two had rarely been seen in the same room ahead of our combined interview.
“Can I call you Joe or Joseph?” Daniels asks.
“Just call me Bob,” Parker replies jokingly.
Cue the bell for 12 rounds with Joseph Parker and Lani Daniels.
1) Is this the first time you guys have met?
Parker: I was at Lani’s last fight [against Alrie Meleisea for the IBF heavyweight title]. Obviously I didn’t get to meet you, but you looked very good. I know Alrie’s young and she came in eager and determined to win, but you showed your experience and I liked watching how you were moving and attacking and you were very calculated. It was a good fight to watch.
It was just great to have a spotlight on the female boxing circuit. Thanks for putting on a great show. John (Conway, Daniels’ manager) has been in the game for a long time, very experienced and a wealth of knowledge, so you guys will make a great team.
Daniels: I didn’t see you there on the night either, but I saw the videos afterwards. I was like: “Oh cool, you were there!” I did get the shout-out video that you sent through to John during camp.
2) Joe, there are many boxers who are coming through the ranks in New Zealand – quite different from when you were world champion in 2016. Are we in a golden era for boxing in the country?
Parker: I feel it’s a perfect time to be involved in boxing. There’s a lot more fighters and there’s a lot more attention, not only for the males but the females as well and it’s getting a bit more balanced. You’ve got these girls headlining the card, and on the undercard there’s Jerome [Pampellone] as well.
I think there’s a good spotlight on boxing – there’s a lot more up-and-comers and there’s more talent being shown from New Zealand. If there are young fighters out there who want to be champ, I think it’s the perfect time to keep pursuing that dream.
3) Lani, how does it feel to be a world champion?
Daniels: I just feel the same to be honest, I feel everybody else is changing. Personally, I feel like if this is what it feels like to be world champ, then I can’t wait to see what it feels like to just be me in five more years, because I feel like I’m only just scraping where I know my potential can be and it’s a weird feeling, you can’t explain it and I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and the process.
I just love fight camp, I love living it, how we’re doing it, just simple and basic. We don’t need all the flash, fancy things, we make do with what we got. Any extra help and support we welcome and appreciate, but the reality is – I feel if you want it, just go do it.
Parker: You know what the exciting part is? Now that you’re champ, it’s that unknown potential of where you can end up. It’s that unknown that will keep you driven and motivated.
4) Joe, any advice you can pass on to Lani from your stint as WBO champ?
Parker: There’s no real advice – she’s been there, she’s done it, she’s there now. I think the most important thing is just staying at the top and showing you belong. Everyone’s gunning for you and that’s where the real grind starts.
When you’re aiming to be at the top, you’re working hard and then sometimes when you’re at the top, you don’t work as hard and you’re not as driven and I think that’s something that’s probably happened to me.
Daniels: That’s one thing John’s said to me, it’s one thing being world champ, but it’s another thing defending it. Honestly, I feel like I’m way hungrier, I feel way more spark in myself, I have more spring in my running – I hate running, but there’s a lot more spring in it!
5) Lani – you’ve got your first title defence of the IBF heavyweight title on August 26 against South African Razel Mohammed. That card will be headlined by IBO super bantamweight champion and fellow female boxing trailblazer Mea Motu. Do you know her well?
Daniels: Yep, well more so through boxing. I didn’t know her too well in the amateur ranks. I probably got to know her more during the professional side of things.
I did spar with her for my last camp – I was just a walking punching bag. I got some good conditioning out of it though because she hits hard and she’s just an all-round cool person, so I’m stoked to be up there with her.
6) We’ve got the Rugby World Cup in October and we’ve seen a number of former rugby union and league players try their hand in the ring in the past, either as a new profession or for a spectacle. Which All Black or Black Fern would you like to see put on the gloves?
Parker: My next-door neighbour, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
I think he’s pretty good. I’d like to see him in the ring. He’s got some good ability.
Daniels: I reckon Aroha Savage would be mean as in the ring.
I love rugby outside of boxing, especially women’s rugby after the World Cup and we’re supporting the Northland Kauri.
7) Who’s your dream opponent, Lani – past or present?
Daniels: I think for me it’s Savannah Marshall over in the United Kingdom, but that’s because I had this epiphany and she’s the person that inspired me.
Clarissa Shields is up there – she’d be someone who’d be cool to throw hands with.
In my amateur days, the weight that I would fight at would be middleweight. At heavyweight, I feel blessed that I can go up in the weights and hold my own, but naturally I’m not a heavyweight.
I will drop down; it’s just a matter of time and what opportunities open moving forward.
8) Lani, you’re a Pipiwai local. What’s unique about your hometown and how’s it shaped you in your career?
Daniels: It’s out in the wops, so it’s blink and you miss it. It’s a small Māori rural community – you know everybody, so you can’t do anything naughty. We just have a church, a school, kohanga reo and a marae.
I think I wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t for home – just learned how to be a hard worker and just be good to everybody else.
Oh, my dad’s the Mormon bishop up there! Well, the branch president because we’re not quite big enough to be a ward.
Parker: Are you a member?
Daniels: A humbug one, but it’s still close to my heart.
Parker: Same as me!
9) Lani, you played basketball for the Te Tai Tokerau Northland Phoenix between 2016 and 2018. Would you consider picking up the sport again and being one of many dual-code athletes in New Zealand?
Daniels: Nah, I’m past my use-by date for basketball.
It’s too hard on the body. I know people think getting punched in the face is way harder, but it’s hard on your joints, like the ankle breakers and the knees.
If I was younger, then definitely. I wish I actually put more effort in and had the mindset I had now to give basketball a proper crack because I love the sport. I think it helps though – all my experience growing up in the development side of things right up to under-18s – the footwork definitely helps out now in the ring.
10) What are your thoughts on influencer boxing? We’ve seen social media stars like Jake Paul and KSI step into the ring and create their own cards. Is this good for the sport or a detriment?
Daniels: I think each to their own. It’s going to upset some people and it’s going to excite others.
Personally, I don’t really care, but you know, that last Jake Paul fight with Tommy Fury was not too bad – it was alright. They trained hard out too so respect for getting in there.
Parker: I’m the same as Lani. Like she said, it’s respect to them because they do put in work, they train hard for these big events and there’s a lot of eyes on them when these fights happen and I know a lot of people talk down on it and a lot of people like it, but as long as there are eyes on this sport and if there’s more people coming over to boxing, I think it’s better.
11) Joe, with all the top heavyweight contenders booked for fights over the next three months, where does that leave you? When could we see you in the ring next?
Parker: I’ve been in New Zealand for the last eight weeks now, I’ve been training like a maniac and I feel like I’m way more driven now. I don’t want to say too much, because in the past, I thought I was on track and I thought I was doing the right thing and eating well, but I find I’m doing it now. I might be travelling next month and hopefully we can lock in a fight then.
We’re not getting younger and the more we fight, the more experience we get, the more we can work on that skillset and work on the boxing IQ. Fighting time is key. Lani just had a fight not long ago, she’s got another one booked in already! I’m just training and practicing a thing called patience.
12) Finally, what motivates you when you step into the ring, Lani?
Daniels: I started boxing about a year ago with John and my pure motivation in all honesty was just to lose weight.
I’m so grateful and blessed that with the simple goal of trying to lose weight, I’ve managed to secure a world title in the process. I feel like it’s more than me, I can’t really put it into words, it’s something I’ve been blessed to be able to do and so I’m just following it through and it’s cool to have the backing of my whanau all up north as well.