Thursday, June 08, 2023  |



Joseph Parker: Joe Joyce applies a lot of pressure and he can take a punch

Photo by Mark Robinson
Fighters Network

Former WBO heavyweight titleholder Joseph Parker is perhaps the most underappreciated fighter in the upper echelons of boxing’s glamour division.

The amiable New Zealander was an standout amateur and his speed, power, skill and athleticism took him to the top as a pro. Parker, 30, annexed a vacant heavyweight title by outpointing Andy Ruiz (MD 12), in 2016, and although his reign may not have been memorable, the only setbacks have come via decision to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte.

In recent times, Parker, who is rated No. 3 by The Ring, found himself locked in a rivalry with Derek Chisora. Having just edged the gutsy British slugger by split decision in May of last year, Parker turned in a far more convincing performance in the rematch, which took place seven months later. He scored three knockdowns and prevailed via 12-round unanimous decision, although some of the scoring (115-110, 115-111 and 114-112) was a little too close for comfort.

“Sometimes you don’t agree with the judging and the scorecards, but, at the end of the day, a win’s a win and that’s all that matters,” said Parker (30-2, 21 KOs) during a recent interview with The Ring.

“It would have been nice to get the stoppage, but, overall, it was a big improvement from the first fight. It showed the improvements I’ve made under Andy Lee while training here in Morecambe, England. I was happy with the improvements and with the way I was able to be more positive in the ring.”

On Saturday, Parker must retain that form when he faces unbeaten British star Joe Joyce. The 12-round world title eliminator will be held at the AO Arena in Manchester, England.

Joyce, who is rated No. 6 by The Ring, capped off a stellar amateur career with an Olympic silver medal at the 2016 games in Rio. At 6-foot-6, and 260 pounds, the unbeaten Londoner is an imposing physical specimen, and he showcased his technical craft to great effect in a 10th-round stoppage over countryman Daniel Dubois in November 2020.

“You always watch who’s coming up and who’s making waves in the division,” Parker explained. “Joe Joyce is undefeated, 14-0 with 13 knockouts, so I have watched some of his fights. I didn’t know that I would fight him one day, but it’s good that we’ve locked this fight in.

“[Joyce] is known to have a great engine, he applies a lot of pressure and he can take a punch. He also presents an awkward, sort of off-beat jab. It doesn’t look the prettiest, but it gets the job done. He’s got good timing on that shot, but we’ve put things in place to counter it. He does present a big challenge.”

Parker, Andy Lee and Tyson Fury. Photo by Queensberry Promotions

And there’s another big challenge lurking around Parker’s gym. In fact, this particular challenge owns the gym. Parker’s friend and training partner Tyson Fury is a self-confessed gym rat and his state-of-the-art facility, which is located in his home city, has become the ultimate heavyweight training lab.

Lee, however, has refused to let both men spar in the lead up to the Joyce fight.

“Yeah, it’s whatever the coach says,” laughed Parker. “I would have loved to test myself against Tyson. He’s been around the gym, but we haven’t done any full sparring. We have done full on body sparring, though, and that’s not even easy.

“In this camp, Martin Bakole has given me great work. Iceland heavyweight [Gunnar] Kolbeinn [Kristinsson] and Nick Campbell, from Scotland, have been here. We’ve had great sparring, and Tyson has been showing me some little bits here and there. It’s Andy that ultimately comes up with the gameplan and he’s been putting in some great sessions with me every day.”

In a recent conversation with Tyson Fury, the reigning WBC heavyweight titleholder informed me that Parker’s weight has been redistributed ahead of this fight: “He’s looking as lean as a bean, but he’s actually really heavy. He’s about 250 pounds,” Fury revealed.

“From the Chisora fight to this fight, there’s been a big difference,” agreed Parker. “I’ve been able to keep the same weight, but still trim down and retain the speed. The power is there, so it’s all about execution. It’s about punching right, it’s about skill, it’s about technique, and it’s about determination. I always say, it’ll be a great night if I can put it all together.

“[Joyce] has mixed it up with a lot of fighters, amateur and professional, so he’s seen a lot of styles. But my style is about movement and speed, and I also have good variety with my punches. With this fight, I think I’ll be able to continue showing the variety of punches I have in my arsenal.”

If both guys bring it on Saturday, this could be one terrific heavyweight battle.

Joyce-Parker, plus undercard action, will be broadcast by ESPN in the U.S. and BT Sport in the U.K.


Tom Gray is managing editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing