Joyce’s stunning beatdown of brave Parker should illustrate how exceptional he is, writes Steve Bunce
NOBODY said it was easy. And it was not. Joe Joyce knocked out Joseph Parker in the 11th round of a heavyweight fight of extraordinary limits.
Joyce finally connected with the type of perfect left hook that the Mexican featherweights have made their own. It was the type of poised and perfect punch that so few modern heavyweights throw to finish a fight; his feet, his body, his eyes were all in the right places when it connected.
Parker went down in collapsing instalments; one leg at a time, then his torso, his arms and finally his head fell to his chest. He slumped in a hefty pile in Joyce’s corner and it looked over. But somehow he beat the count, rising before nine, but not able to complain when the referee, Steve Gray, counted to 10. At ringside, the king of resurrections, Tyson Fury, stood and cheered on his great friend, Parker. It was pure drama.
The extraordinary and brutal fight was over. The official time was 1-03 of the 11th and time was Parker’s enemy at that point. The same time, was Joyce’s friend and anybody from any of the heavyweight camps, will have noticed how good Joyce was as the seconds ticked.
The slugfest was over and it had been a fabulous journey.
Joyce was in front at the end, relaxed and mixing his punches with ease. He led by margins of five, three and two rounds after 10 completed rounds. Parker had come out for the 11th round with the cut at the side of his right eye still trickling blood and his left eye closing. He was still trying to win what had, by then, become a lost cause. I don’t really need to add it was a throwback fight between two old-fashioned and unfashionable fighters.
It was always going to be a great fight, a perfect storm of styles, pride and drive. Stepping through the ropes transforms both of them, they lose their nice guy tags until the last punch has been thrown.
Parker, lighter at 18st 3, started mobile, sticking out jabs in doubles and the occasional triple; the punches don’t have to always land, but they always create a distraction. Joyce, in the first round, looked a lot more poised than he has in other fights. Joyce moved back, hands high a couple of times. It was an intriguing opener.
The first big shot was a Parker right hand in the second and that is not a punch to mess with. Joyce never flickered. Joyce was backing Parker up, moving him back without having to let his hands go; Parker needed Joyce’s hands to go so that he could work. At the end of two rounds, a smart Joyce had emerged. His backers argued it was always there, it was just that critics focused on the flaws.
And then it was the third and the brawl started. Fix your seatbelt, I said to Carl Frampton, the fight is here now. And it was.
Parker was hurt, it looked bad. He had the instinct to survive, to fight for every second he was still standing. Parker switched to the body, which had been designated Joyce’s weakness. It looked like a false dream; nobody really knows what hurts Joyce.
Parker caught Joyce flush with another big right in the fourth. These are not speculative, wild swings, but timed counters, the type of punch that hurt Anthony Joshua back in 2018. Joyce walked through the punches and was unmarked as he sat down at the end of four and listened to the undeniable little Cuban, Ismael Salas.
After six rounds, I had it four-two to Joyce. Parker was breathing heavy, marked, but still connecting with sickening rights and the odd left. Joyce was not the usual Joyce; Joyce was moving better than ever, taking far fewer shots and risks. Parker needed a more reckless Joyce. Parker needed the old Joyce.
Parker was cut in the seventh by the side of his right eye. Joyce remained smart, backing Parker up, letting body punches batter Parker’s arms and ribs. Parker always found a big right and was still connecting with thumping body shots. I gave Parker the ninth. “That was your round,” Andy Lee, in Parker’s corner, told him. “This is very easy, Joe.” Parker bravely rose for the 10th. Joyce was already there, barely breathing.
There is no panic in Joyce, never a concern, just an unshakable belief in his own ability.
In many ways, the 10th round was Joseph Parker’s last stand, his final three-minutes to swing the fight his way. It was relentless courage. Lee looked long and hard at Parker at the end of round 10. The pair are friends and it showed.
Joyce, meanwhile, had found a daunting pace for a man of 19st 5 and looked comfortable in the fight’s later rounds. Joyce is called the Juggernaut; he never stops, they say. Ding-ding, it was the 11th and last round; sixty-three seconds later it was all over and the hugs started. It was a win that only the ignorant and the deluded can ignore. Sure, Joyce gets hit, but he slips more punches than people want to admit. And that engine is outrageous. He also throws shots with an education that is overlooked; Salas has fine-tuned another heavyweight giant.
In the aftermath, their dressing rooms were a harsh, bloody and joyful contrast that you would expect. Joyce and Frank Warren were finishing each other’s sentences like a couple of excited kids. “That’s what it is all about,” said Warren. “Bring them all on: Joshua, Wilder, Whyte.” Warren has promised a world title fight next year.
And down another corridor, Parker sat, freshly stitched, his mother massaging his shoulders. There was disbelief in his voice. “I hit him with great shots,” he said. “He kept on coming. Fair play to him.” Off to one side, Lee was looking on in silence. Poor Andy looked a bit shaken. “We had a good plan. It would have worked,” he said. It’s a shell-shocked look that you often see in a dressing room when something unexpected has happened to a fighter.
Joyce has ruined a lot of “good” plans and he will ruin more. Joyce, you see, is so much better than he looks. It is time to stop dismissing him as a big lump with a great chin. He showed a ring intelligence against Parker that has only been glimpsed briefly previously.
The fight’s final image, in my opinion, belongs to the little big man from Havana, Salas. On the Sunday, there was a glorious picture of him holding a Guinness, smiling and smoking a towering Cohiba Esplendidos. That is how you finish a victorious fight weekend.