Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker meet on Saturday night as the two heavyweights headline a huge card in Manchester.
It’s the No.1-ranked challenger versus the No.2 in the WBO heavyweight division with both men battling it out to win the WBO interim world title — a title that guarantees the winner a shot at Oleksandr Usyk.
The road to the champ continues here. The Ukrainian defended his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles with a split-decision win over Anthony Joshua on August 20 in Saudi Arabia and will most likely return to the ring in the new year, when he could face the winner of this fight.
‘I think they’ve underestimated my ability’
Joyce (14-0, 13 KOs) was a silver medallist at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and turned professional the following year. The 37-year-old has held the British, Commonwealth, WBC Silver, WBO International and European heavyweight titles, and he is gunning for his first shot at the heavyweight world title.
His most recent win came against former world title-challenger Christian Hammer in July, as Joyce made it four wins a row inside the distance with a fourth-round TKO over his German opponent. ‘The Juggernaut’ is highly confident heading into the fight and is keen to prove Team Parker wrong for their comments in the build-up.
“It’s going to be a great fight; everyone knows it and it’s one not to be missed. I think they’ve underestimated my boxing ability a little bit, so I’ll have to prove them wrong on Saturday night,” Joyce said in an exclusive interview with The Sporting News.
“It’s my biggest test so far: he’s well-rounded, he’s got fast hands and fast feet, so let’s see what his gameplan is and how the fight ignites and then I can work and adapt to that when I’m in there.”
If his tactical approach sounds a little off-the-cuff, there’s a real certainty about how Joyce ranks the heavyweight division — and his own place among the elite.
“I’d say [Tyson] Fury is top, Oleksandr Usyk second and then I guess once I beat Parker, it’ll be me!”
‘I feel revived — the journey starts now’
Parker (30-2, 21 KOs) became the WBO world champion back in 2016 when he beat Andy Ruiz Jr by a majority decision verdict in New Zealand. He defended the belt twice before losing to Anthony Joshua in a unification fight in 2018.
His next fight saw him lose a tough 12 round battle with Dillian Whyte in London, but he has since put together six wins in a row, his last a dominating and exciting points victory over veteran Dereck Chisora in their rematch in December.
The New Zealander comes into this fight supremely confident and believes a win over Joyce could be the start of a whole new exciting journey.
“This is the first step of many fights ahead,” he said to The Sporting News. “I felt like I have achieved a lot but then I went through a phase where I didn’t really enjoy it and now I love it again, I feel revived, and I feel like I’ve got a lot more to give and that the journey starts now.
“It starts with Joe Joyce: if I beat him, it’s only upwards from here. But I’m very excited to be here –I can’t wait for this fight to happen and we’re nearly there and I’m going to go in there and have some fun and punch him around.”
Having recently signed with the promotional company Boxxer, promoter Ben Shalom teams up with the former world champion for the first time and he believes we’re going to see the best version of Parker that we’ve ever seen.
“He is so ready for this. And he said when we signed: ‘This is the fight I want. If you can get it on the right terms, Ben, please get it, because this opportunity is huge.’ And we’ve got it on the right terms and we’ve got it at the right time,” Shalom told The Sporting News.
Andy Lee, who also trained Parker for his Chisora rematch, claimed the 30-year-old is “becoming a more complete fighter” and “improving in every aspect” ahead of this bout. He also praised his fighter’s preparations, saying that being in Morecambe with WBC champion Fury has helped push Parker to new levels.
“We’ve been lucky to have the use of Tyson Fury’s House gym and all the resources he has,” he said. “Then just being around Tyson, listening to him, going through different scenarios and also obviously his competitiveness when it comes to training, they push each other further and further every day.”
Lee agrees with Joyce that the winner of this fight automatically becomes the third best heavyweight in the world (unofficially, of course) behind Fury and unified heavyweight champion Usyk. Beyond a potential rematch, he thinks Parker has what it takes to show he belongs among the upper echelons of the division.
“We’ve got a rematch clause, which we’ve made with Joyce, but we never know what the future holds, and boxing contracts are not the best, you know?” Lee said.
“But it’s for the interim title and it’ll put Parker in a great position. It’s in his hands; it’s in his mind. He just has to go out there and do it now.
“He’s well drilled, well skilled and now he just needs to perform.”