Business as usual as Anthony Joshua prepares for Joseph Parker unification

Parker and Joshua meet in a heavyweight unification clash on March 31 in Cardiff. Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Respectful, cordial and it finished with a handshake. The first prefight press conference between Anthony Joshua and Joshua Parker passed without incident. For all the posturing, verbal jousting and thinly veiled insults thrown in Joshua's direction from Parker's camp, there was a line drawn in the sand.

Had both promoters taken Joshua's sentiments that he would have fought Parker in the car park for free, then this fight would have been sorted a long while ago. It is not boxing's way; instead the first public-facing meeting between the two came in a jam-packed room in central London.

There was an ugly build up to the final confirmation Sunday of Joshua's next fight against Parker on March 31 in Cardiff. David Higgins, Parker's promoter, said the verbal grenades lobbed in Joshua's direction were to gain interest in the fight, to force it over the line and grow a hubbub of interest. He also said it was part of modern sport to analyse your opponent's strengths and weaknesses.

Publically at least, Joshua stays away from that. He has always been one to keep his cool; being one of the two ugly sisters in the prefight pantomime of prefight boxing is just not his way. But as he sat at the top table in the plush London hotel as the world finally saw him sit a handful of feet away from Higgins and Parker, he was calm, measured but keen to clarify a couple of comments stepping in after Higgins referred to some prefight tactics.

The November press conference held by Parker's camp in New Zealand showed clips of Joshua being knocked to the ground. Then more recently came further noise, talks of Joshua's "glass chin" and of the unbeaten heavyweight champion being "rattled". Higgins claimed Joshua had been "dropped a number of times"; all the while Parker baited Joshua on social media using the hashtag #neverbeendropped.

It seemed to be building towards a crescendo when the two came face to face. The press conference in London was delayed by 30 minutes. There were rumours circling that Joshua could finally lose his cool and the occasion would descend into the odd push and shove. Those suggestions proved unfounded as the four-level chandelier hung in the middle of this 18th century grandeur, complete with Wedgewood china inspiration stayed untouched. Joshua remained calm as always.

But what was most interesting was Joshua's clarification over the claims from Parker's camp that he has been dropped on a number of occasions. He spoke of three incidents, jumping in ahead of the pre-planned layout for the press conference. He mentioned the 2011 European Championships Mihai Nistor, then against David Price and finally, the moment in the sixth round against Wladimir Klitschko when he was floored but recovered to stop him in the 11th round. Joshua's trainer Rob McCracken said the first two were treating Joshua "a lesson" at a time in his life rarely spoken about when he found himself on the wrong side of the law. The latter, Klitschko, was "three fights early". All the while Joshua listened. "In terms of using it as a PR stunt. The rumours that you have heard, they're fake news."

Strengths and weaknesses were spoken of. Parker's trainer Kevin Barry sounded a warning to his man, saying he has to be at the top of his game if he is to end Joshua's status. "I have better speed, better movements," was Parker's take. That was the height of any on-stage provocation levelled in Joshua's direction. Eddie Hearn challenged Higgins to repeat previous comments with Joshua in the room. It came to nothing.

Joshua's first words were: "Happy New Year. It's good to be back". Business as usual, 2018 the focus where he hopes to have three fights, the armour up and those steely eyes back. As Parker and Higgins spoke he focused on a point at the back of the room, soaking it in, not reacting bar once when Rob McCracken whispered something in his ear. It ended with talk of respect, and the best man winning. Sporting and boxing values moved back to the front of the agenda; prematch barbs consigned, publically at least, to the confirmation stage of this fight.

"This is a rare occasion," Joshua said. "You know what we bring, we bring fireworks. It will be good. I was a bit sceptical about how to take his camp but I respect their camp and hopefully afterwards we can shake hands."

Motivation is a strange old business. Subjective to the fighter. Joshua has been here before, he has beaten Klitschko at Wembley and then Carlos Takam at Principality Stadium. This is the biggest fight in Parker's career, the one he hopes will send his star stratospheric. With the fight confirmed, this stage of the build-up passing without any incident, Joshua heading to Sheffield and Parker to Las Vegas for training camps, it is no longer a battle of words. It is now time for introspection as Joshua and Parker seek to keep their undefeated status. Talk can be cheap, it can damage, but now the calm.

"First the verbal wars before the physical one," Joshua said. "I'm not really into the verbals, I'd fight him in the car park for free -- that's the fighter's mindset. I just want to fight."