Parker tumbled and fell to the canvas, his body limp and covered in blood from a cut above his eye, but somehow was on his feet at nine. The referee, Steve Gray, continued his count and the brutal and unforgiving brawl was over. It was a moment to pause and time to take a breath.
Joyce is known and now feared as the Juggernaut; he is a fighter with immense natural assets and against Parker, who had never been stopped, he proved beyond doubt, and the use of quasi science, that he is a smart boxer. Joyce weighed 19.5 and is close to 6.7, a full heavyweight even in the land of modern giants. Parker is not small, but he was over a stone lighter and a couple of inches shorter.
It was only Joyce’s 15th fight, his 14th to end quickly, but Parker, who is younger, has held a version of the world title and had previously only lost to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte. Joyce did what the pair failed to do, but in many ways it was the smarter version of Joyce, the thinking fighter with the extra movement that was more impressive than the Joyce who delivered the final, chilling punch.
It was a fight of heart and desire, a fight where the winner moved closer to a bigger promise and the loser was left looking in at an inner circle of heavyweight boxers. Parker’s defiance was testimony to the endless quest of men for the old, old title of heavyweight champion of the world; Joyce joined the tiny banquet, a deserving fighter at the table now with Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, Joshua and the rogue, Deontay Wilder. Joyce will now wait his turn and nobody can or should leapfrog the part-time artist from Putney.
Parker had a perfect plan to beat Joyce, a mix of mobility with short raids; he needed to get his jab working, not retreat with his head high and he had to let his hands go fast before moving. It was a great plan on paper, but it needed Joyce to walk in straight lines, commit and miss with punches. Instead, Joyce picked his punches with care, moved his feet, held his hands high and fought with intelligence. It was still a hard and savage fight, make no mistake.
Joyce took a lot of full-bloodied punches and never once buckled or showed any signs of distress. Joyce has the greatest chin in boxing right now and that must have shaken Parker’s belief. “I hit him clean so many times,” Parker said from the sanctuary of his dressing room. There was a sense of shock in the room. Andy Lee, his trainer, was raw with emotion, his voice breaking. “We had a good plan, I believed in the plan,” he said.
The trouble is that Joyce, right now, can walk through his opponent’s best punches. His chin is part of his defence; Parker is a vicious puncher. It was quite a spectacle watching right uppercuts, big rights and left hooks bounce of Joyce’s chin and head.
“I can feel the bruises coming up,” said Joyce, as he raised his right hand to gently touch the left side of his face. Carl Frampton, the two-weight world champion, who was working with me on BT, had a great line: “Parker probably landed nine of the best ten punches of the fight; they just made no difference.” Joyce might just redefine the boundaries of tough in the old game.
Joyce stuck to the job, jabbing, looking for hooks to the body and seizing his chances to let his hands go; he picked his punches with the care we have seldom seen from him. Parker was cut badly by the right eye in round seven. The cut was ugly, but not a factor when the final, sweet left hook dropped him so heavily. It was officially over at 1:03 of the eleventh round; at the end of the tenth, the judges had Joyce in front by two, three and five rounds respectively. It was a very good performance.
In the midnight aftermath, Frank Warren, Joyce’s promoter, promised his boxer a full world title fight next year. Joyce picked up the WBO’s interim title, which is a bauble that often just signifies that you have a place at the very top of the pile. A ticket to fight, if you like. The WBO champion is Usyk and there is bold talk of a fight in April or May next year with Fury. “The winner of that has to fight Joe,” Warren said. The great British heavyweight business rolls on.
Meanwhile, Fury, a ringside guest and Parker’s close friend, confirmed that Joshua has until Monday to sign and return their contract for a fight on December 3. It was the only piece of heavyweight pantomime on a night of pure brutality. Joyce’s win, Parker’s bravery and the finish was a timely reminder to the men squabbling over fake rivalries and the insults of the Youtube fighters; the boxing game is not something that you play for fun.