On Saturday night in Manchester, Joe Joyce was unfazed, undeterred and unrelenting as he marched through Joseph Parker’s offence, defence and resilience to knock out the New Zealander in the 11th round and claim the vacant interim WBO heavyweight title.
There have been criticisms of Joyce’s speed, movement and creativity since the Olympic silver medalist turned pro, but the Briton has compiled a 15-0 (14 KOs) unbeaten record by playing to his strengths, and that was exactly what he did against Parker in this enthralling main-event contest at the AO Arena.
At 37 years old, Joyce has time against him in his quest to become a world champion, but it did not show on Saturday. Joyce picked his moments wisely in Manchester, applying constant, measured pressure against Parker but only increasing the volume and intensity of his output when absolutely necessary.
Joyce established a healthy lead with forward movement, teasing jabs and well-timed power punches, while New Zealand’s Parker demonstrated great heart to absorb his opponent’s most effective offence and fire back with brutal body hooks and the occasional frightening haymaker.
Yet the “Juggernaut” continually pressed forward, indefatigable as he accepted Parker’s punches as though they were ‘tickles’, something he had threatened to do ahead of the bout.
As the cuts and bruises began to mount for Parker, who did his best not to wilt and to instead conjure a finish against the odds, Joyce sensed that the end need not wait until the final bell.
The Briton disregarded a promising spell from Parker late in the 10th round and forged an early opening in the 11th. With Parker retreating, Joyce hurled one final hook onto the Kiwi’s jaw, crumpling the 30-year-old against the ropes.
Parker almost oozed through them like liquid, but somehow slunk back to his feet. It was too late, however; he could not beat the referee’s count and was condemned to a first stoppage defeat.
Joyce’s victory puts him in line for a potential title shot against the WBO’s official champion Oleksandr Usyk, who also holds the WBA, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles.
The Briton even called out the unbeaten southpaw directly, referencing a famous interview of the Ukrainian’s by saying: “Usyk, I’m very feel, let’s get it on.”
For Parker, meanwhile, this was his third defeat as a professional. The 30-year-old (30-3, 21 KOs) previously lost to British heavyweights Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte in back-to-back bouts in 2018, with the loss to “AJ” seeing the Kiwi drop the WBO title.
In the co-main event at the AO Arena, unified women’s featherweight champion Amanda Serrano bounced back from her narrow loss to Katie Taylor, outpointing Sarah Mahfoud on all three judges’ scorecards.