Joyce vs Parker: the full story

As Juggernaut Joe Joyce prepares to face the former world champion, we take a closer look at what's at stake

These are boom days for heavyweight boxing. On September 24, Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker will be aiming to take a big step towards getting to the top of the tree when they meet for the interim WBO heavyweight title at the AO Arena, Manchester. 

It is a clash of two big men at or near the peak of their powers. Parker, from New Zealand, held the WBO title from 2016 until 2018, but at 30 is still young in heavyweight terms and coming off one of his best wins, over Derek Chisora at the same venue last December.  

Joyce is 36 but was a late starter to the sport. He is an Olympic silver medallist and has won all of his 14 professional fights, 13 by stoppage. 


Unlike in years gone by, the big names appear to be fighting each other right now. All too often a ranked heavyweight has been happy to sit around waiting for their title shot to come along, but now the potential rewards are enormous. There is more money in the division than ever before. 

The Tyson Fury-Dillian Whyte WBC title clash – which took place at Wembley Stadium in April – drew the biggest purse bid in boxing history. That, in turn, then led to the biggest gate receipts for an event at Wembley, which sold out in a matter of minutes. 

August’s triple title clash between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua in Jeddah – for the WBO, WBA and IBF titles – saw the pair earn a reported $40 million each. And those figures could pale against the likely earnings for a clash between Fury and Usyk for the undisputed world heavyweight title. Even if Fury’s demands of $500 million are fanciful, they could well be paid more than any boxer in history. 

All of which should be great motivation for any big-name heavyweight out there. Fury vs Usyk could take place as soon as December, so opportunity is coming for the contenders too. 

Joyce and Parker are ranked No.1 and No.2 respectively by the WBO. By announcing this fight as for the “interim” title, the winner will either get a fight against the undisputed champion or they will claim the full WBO title if either Fury or Usyk decide to give it up or retire, thus crossing the first hurdle of a whole new “race to the undisputed title”. 

Parker remembers Manchester’s arena well, as the Chisora win was his second appearance there. It was also there, in 2017, that he defended the WBO title – which he had won by beating Andy Ruiz Jr, who would later become the first man to beat Anthony Joshua – against Hughie Fury, Tyson’s cousin. It was a dire fight, as Parker chased Fury and Fury moved backwards trying to pick him off. The New Zealander won the decision, which led to Tyson Fury, then hugely out of shape during his three-year break from the ring, ranting against the judges.  

The next year, Parker lost his title to Joshua in a unification fight at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, but when Parker looked to change his training set-up a year ago, the man he turned to for advice was Tyson Fury. So, he swapped Auckland for Morecambe, going on his training runs with the WBC champion and being trained by Andy Lee, Fury’s friend and assistant trainer. 

Parker says he has never felt batter. His win over Chisora – backing up a previous win over the Londoner – was probably the best performance of his career. 

Joyce, from Putney in London, has followed a well-worn route to heavyweight success, via the Great Britain Olympic squad based in Sheffield. 

No other country can match GB’s success at super-heavyweight. Since Audley Harrison won gold in Sydney in 2000, the only time a GB boxer did not make the Olympic podium was in 2004 when Britain was not represented. 

Joshua claimed gold in London in 2012, and for Joyce there was a rather bittersweet silver in Rio de Janeiro four years later. Joyce’s gold-medal final against France’s Tony Yoka was one fight that was identified by a recent investigation as a suspect result fight in a Games riddled with corruption. Joyce still wants what he sees as “his” gold medal. 

Not winning gold – plus turning professional at 32 – meant Joyce was matched tough when he left his amateur days behind him. 


Frank Warren, the promoter, believes that Joyce’s nickname “The Juggernaut” is the most suitable he has known in all his years in the sport. He often looks slow, raw and easy to hit, but at times he looks unstoppable as he rolls forward and sometimes looks bombproof as punches just seem to bounce off him. 

Joshua, who sparred hundreds of rounds with him when they were based at Sheffield together, said facing Joyce felt like fighting a wall that was constantly moving towards you. 

Warren himself had a lesson in just how tough Joyce was when he matched his top heavyweight hope, Daniel Dubois, with him in a British, Commonwealth and European title fight in 2020. Dubois, a noted big-puncher, started well but Joyce ground him down, Dubois taking a knee having suffered a damaged eye, in the tenth round. Dubois has since won the WBA’s “regular” title, effectively making him that organisation’s next in line. 

Parker represents the toughest test so far for Joyce, as a seasoned boxer who has been to the top and is young enough and hungry enough to make it back again. Parker goes in as the outsider with the bookmakers and the other two times he did that – against Joshua and Whyte – he lost. It sets up for a fascinating fight. 

The Manchester bill also features Amanda Serrano, a multiple world champion from Puerto Rico who battled Katie Taylor in an epic fight at Madison Square Garden earlier this year, in a world featherweight title unification against Denmark’s unbeaten Sarah Mahfoud. Belfast’s Anthony Cacace challenges Italy’s Michael Magnesi for the IBO super-featherweight title, while unbeaten British and Commonwealth welterweight champion Ekow Essuman, from Nottingham, defends those titles against London’s Samuel Antwi. 

Tickets for the Joyce vs Parker fight are on sale now here.