Today begins a very special week for Samoa. It starts this afternoon at Faleolo International Airport when Samoa’s very own son, Lupesoliai La’auli Joseph Parker and his entourage touch down.
The visit is hardly a secret. It’s a trip this nation has been dreaming about since Parker took the world by storm, launching himself onto the international stage as a real contender for the world heavyweight title.
And since news surfaced that Parker was not only coming to Samoa but also to stage a fight here, our people have been finding it pretty hard to contain their excitement. Such excitement is likely to hit fever pitch over the next few days as the countdown continues to the much-anticipated ‘Rumble in Paradise.’
Not since the glory days of David Tua and his march to a world title shot has boxing generated this much excitement and interest on these shores.
Apart from the All Blacks historical visit to Apia last week, the coming week will probably rank up there among the biggest sporting moments in Samoa.
It’s not everyday that we have someone of Parker’s ilk bring such a big fight to these shores. And that’s largely due to Parker’s love for his Samoan people, his parents Dempsey and Sala, trainer Barry, Duco Events and of course all the sponsors – including SIFA - who have made it possible.
A key man in all this is the Director of Duco Events, David Higgins, who believes Rumble in Paradise will build on the success of the All Blacks visit last year, reinforcing Samoa’s capability to host major events.
“Samoa is a nation which statistically punches well above its weight in the sport of boxing,” Mr. Higgins said.
“Despite a relatively very small population, Samoa has produced greats such as David Tua and Maselino Masoe. It is therefore long overdue that Samoa should host its first major internationally televised professional boxing event.”
There are a lot of positives for Samoa in this fight.
Rumble in Paradise will promote Samoa’s international profile and in doing so is likely to improve our tourism prospects and promote Samoa as a booming sports tourism destination.
Speaking of sports tourism, this is such a huge market the government should be targeting and tapping into. Imagine if there was a similar fight every year in Apia? And given Parker’s rise in the heavyweight ranks, imagine securing a fight like this in Samoa every six months?
Indeed, we believe there are a range of sporting fixtures across various codes which could conceptually be staged in Samoa. Think of the Sevens series, Rugby League fixtures and many others. The S.I.D.S conference, the Commonwealth Youth Games, the All Blacks and many other big events have proven that this country is exceptional when it comes to hosting visitors.
As we welcome Parker and his camp today, we are under no illusion that Samoa will step up to the plate once more.
Truth be told, the bout itself might not necessarily be the greatest in terms of quality opponents for Parker. Judging by what we’ve seen from Parker during his last few fights, Bergman is unlikely to trouble him too much at Tuana’imato.
But that’s fine. In Joseph Parker, we are looking at a potential world champion.
This fight in Samoa is a key stepping stone towards that goal. Not having fought a southpaw before, it means Parker will be totally out of his comfort zone next Saturday.
And then there is Bergman’s confidence to deal with also.
“I hope he’s feeling 100 per cent ready to go to war on January 23 because it will be a fight,” the American said. “I feel it’s going to be a very competitive fight and I’ve come here to win not for the pay cheque. I’m going to shock the world and I’m going to be ready to die in that ring and I hope he is to.”
Fighting words indeed.
Lupesoliai though is remaining calm.
“He has what he wants to say,” Parker. “I haven’t had an end of year yet, I’ve been training right through so I’m looking forward to the break after this fight and want to finish this year off with fireworks. He’s well prepared and like he said he’s ready to go to war so it’s going to guns blazing in Samoa.”
As for fighting in front of his people, Parker said: “This is a fight I’m looking forward to. My parents were born in Samoa and I travel there every year to visit the family and friends so it’s nice to get back there and thank everyone for their support.”
Well before anybody gloves up, let us tell you that the people of Samoa are mighty grateful for the opportunity to witness a quality fight. We can hardly wait.
Lastly, we also want to say that in our eyes, Lupesoliai Parker is already a champion. So welcome home, Champ!