The news is in and it’s not good for WBO heavyweight champion, Joseph Parker. Ahead of his March 31 unification clash with Watford’s IBF and WBA Super king Anthony Joshua, at Cardiff’s Milennium Stadium, the New Zealander has been warned by the Brit’s sparring partner he faces an incredibly tough task.
I was lucky enough to speak to 20-0 (11) Italian heavyweight, Matteo Modugno, who joined Joshua for the unified champion’s first two weeks of sparring in the training camp for Parker, last month. Modugno took full advantage of this golden, albeit intermittently painful opportunity
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The fortnight with AJ will hopefully help to reinvigorate Modugno’s own career. The Milan-based 30-year-old missed out on a European title shot against then-holder Dereck Chisora back in November 2013, suffering a broken wrist less than two weeks before their scheduled date. Shoulder surgery forced Matteo into inactivity for all of 2016 but he remains relatively young for a heavyweight and speaks highly of two years, until last September, he spent living in London, training under Adam Booth and alongside the likes of Andy Lee, Ryan Burnett and Josh Kelly. Now back home, with trainer Tony Dalmasso, Modugno feels his time with Joshua could prove pivotal.
“After the experience with Joshua, you understand a lot of things about yourself,” he reflects. “I learned a lot. It’s always a great opportunity to watch how a world champion trains, thinks, lives, because in Italy we have maybe three-four heavyweights so it’s very hard, if not impossible, to spar real heavyweights. It is important to spar fighters who are better than you.
“I can be a very good heavyweight. Which belt I fight for isn’t important but I want a good fight with a good opponent. I would like Chisora now but I think he wants a big name to come back to top level and Carlos Takam [a rumoured Chisora opponent and AJ’s most recent victim, who shares a manager with Modugno] is a big name.”