Joe Joyce will always have his doubters, but he showed that he is a world-class heavyweight of some standing as he defeated Joseph Parker in 11 rounds in a superb battle in Manchester to become interim WBO champion.
In many ways it was the same Joyce we have always seen – strong, powerful, with remarkable punch resistance and an incredible engine. But this performance was a vast step up on Joyce’s previous efforts.
While he took some big punches from Parker, he wasn’t nearly as open as he has been in recent fights. He didn’t over-commit and was happy to box behind his jab and stay at range. His punch selection and hand speed were as important to this victory as his durability.
He also showed that he could do it at a high level. At 30, Parker is the youngest by nearly seven years, although it is 4½ years since his reign as WBO champion was ended by defeat to Anthony Joshua.
Booth Parker is still a world-class heavyweight. He showed great hand speed, incredible bravery and some good variety, but the volume of shots from Joyce was just immense for a big man. And to still be able to find another gear to force the finish so late in the fight is stunning.
Joyce supposedly now is in line to face Oleksandr Usyk, the WBA, WBO, IBO and IBF champion, who beat him in a World Series of Boxing match over five rounds in 2013. Over 12 could be a very different matter, although the reality is that Joyce is third in line for that fight behind Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic, mandatory for the WBA and IBF, and Usyk only has his eyes on Tyson Fury, the WBC champion, anyway.
“I’m a little bit tired,” Joyce said. “Joseph Parker, what a great fighter and what a great fight.
“I really enjoyed it, it was tough and I had to dig deep to get through the rounds. I hit him with everything I’ve got, literally – the kitchen sink, the handbag, everything. I tried it all but he was still coming forward, game. It was hard work.”
The first round was intriguing, as Joyce pressed forward behind a jab and, unusually, blocked most of Parker’s punches and the New Zealander looked happy to give ground in order to get around Joyce’s guard.
But the weight of the Londoner’s punches seemed to have an impact in the second, as Parker was pushed around and then he looked bothered by a right that landed behind the ear. But Parker came off the ropes with a hard right, which Joyce brushed off. And as Parker came leaping forward with a right and a left, Joyce landed a hard right in return.
Parker was going for the body, though, attempted to chip away at Joyce’s power. But Joyce was not getting carried away, sticking with the jab and wearing Parker down.
Early in the third, as Parker landed a right, he was manhandled by Joyce, who pushed him away and then landed a right and left hook and followed up with a body shot. Parker fired back with a peach of a right, although Joyce then looked to exchange, as he forced Parker back to the ropes, landed two body shots and then a hard right that seemed to hurt Parker.
The New Zealander tried to throw big shots to force Joyce back, but Joyce kept his composure and offered no target and when they clinched, Joyce leaned down on him.
Two crunching uppercuts landed from Parker, but Joyce walked through them and Parker finished the round with another big right.
Parker looked to be more elusive at the start of the fourth, but Joyce walked him down. Parker landed from range and then got through with a huge right cross that caught Joyce flush but didn’t shift him.
Joyce was busier in the fifth round as he put the pressure on Parker, who was looking tired, and as Parker moved away, Joyce was not in the mood to give him a breather. Parker loaded up on his shots, but it must have been disappointing to see Joyce still coming at him.
The Londoner started the sixth fast, landing to the body and head and chasing Parker back into a neutral corner. Two body shots and a left hook to the head landed and then Joyce landed an overhand right. There was no respite for Parker, as Joyce landed to the body and head and Parker went from one set of ropes to another.
Parker was looking for a chance to punch his way out of trouble, but Joyce wasn’t letting up. A right uppercut caught Parker as he was trying to throw and then an overhand right sent him back to the ropes again. He blasted back with a body shot that looked low, but when Joyce landed another right, he went back to a corner, as Joyce looked in total control.
But that start of the seventh saw Parker blasting again, landing a left hook and then a body shot that stopped Joyce momentarily in his tracks. After Parker missed with a big right, Joyce landed three clubbing shots up close and then an overhand right that made Parker go backwards again and when he went back to a corner, Parker opened up.
One big left then an overhand right looked to hurt Parker, who emerged cut around the right eye. Initially Joyce backed off but then went back in, landing a series of short punches as Parker tried to trade, but Parker looked just about all in when the bell went.
He walked out of the corner in the eighth round into a left-right combination. And when Parker threw a right, he was met with a weight from Joyce. A body shot and a right hook had Parker reeling across the ring. Parker was still trying to force Joyce backwards, but the cut was bothering him and Joyce wasn’t missing much. Parker landed a big hook off the ropes, but Joyce then landed a big overhand right. Once again Parker fired back and Joyce this time dragged Parker’s head down to end the attack. Joyce landed a right to the body that saw Parker visibly wilt and as brave as Parker was, Joyce was dominant, even if he seemed to be tiring himself.
Early in the ninth round, Parker landed a big uppercut, but it spurred a response from Joyce, who banged home two big rights. More body shots from Joyce slowed Parker again as blood flowed from the cut, but as tired as he was, Parker was still trying to throw and landed two good hooks at the end of the tenth round.
Parker came out for the eleventh inspired, but Joyce was still strong and landed a series of right hooks, and then a big left hook, as Parker was forced back again.
This time Parker had nothing left and, after trying to cling on to Joyce, a left hook sent Parker staggering back and dropped him to the floor in Joyce’s corner in an uncomfortable looking heap. Parker somehow staggered back to his feet, but the count reached ten as he had his back to referee Steve Gray, who counted him out. The official time was 1:03 of the eleventh round.
“It was an amazing heavyweight fight,” Frank Warren, the promoter, said. “Such a high pace and they both came through. Joe showed why he is called The Juggernaut. I was surprised how fast he was in the early rounds. Hats off to Joseph Parker, but we’ve got a new kid on the block here.
“He’s getting better and better like a fine wine. Now he’s in a great spot. We are going to move heaven and earth to make sure he gets a shot at the world title next year. And that will be in the UK. Let him have a rest and we will get him out again in February or March.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.