The heavyweight division returns this Saturday as two contenders from just below the top tier of operators go head-to-head at Manchester's AO Arena.
Joe Joyce (14-0, 13KOs) of England faces off against New Zealander Joseph Parker (30-2, 21KOs). The fight throws up a distinct clash of styles, meaning one can argue a strong case for either fighter grabbing the win at the weekend. It will be interesting to see which style is more effective as the bout unfolds. With smart coaches in each corner, it wouldn't come as a surprise if both boxers attempt to include some wrinkles in their respective game plans. The prize for the winner will become a mandatory challenger for the WBO portion of the heavyweight crown currently held by Oleksandr Usyk. The losing fighter will tumble further down into the pack of fighters chasing bouts against the division's top dogs. It's an important fight for both men.
The bout and full undercard will screen on BT Sport Box Office (£19.95) in the UK and ESPN+ in America, getting underway at 7 p.m. BST / 2 p.m. ET.
JOYCE VS. PARKER BETTING ODDS
Per BetMGM, Joe Joyce is the favorite at -190, and Joseph Parker is the underdog at +160.
Joe Joyce: Decision +135; KO/TKO +250
Joseph Parker: Decision +280; KO/TKO +550
Time to have a look at both fighters before offering some opinion on how Saturday's fight will go.
Known as “Juggernaut,” Joyce's style is perfectly summed up by that appellation. The 37-year-old, who turned pro in 2017 after a lengthy campaign in the unpaid ranks, brings a straight-ahead approach to his work. Joyce will walk forward and throw his powerful jab into the face of his opponent with a relentlessness rarely seen in modern boxing. He's like the Terminator; he doesn't stop until the job is done. Joyce has an outstanding engine and never looks out of gas during fights. His unbelievable stamina allows him to maintain this high-pressure style for the duration.
Sticking to the Terminator analogy, his movements have been described as being slow and robotic. His style isn't necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but it has been highly effective for him so far. Joyce's seasoning in amateur boxing has also provided him with excellent ring intelligence. He can, of course, do more than jab; he unleashes power punches at the right moments, often as counters when his opponents think they have had a bit of success. A great example of Joyce showcasing his ring smarts is his 2020 win over countryman Daniel Dubois.
Another feature of Joyce's boxing is his lack of defence and head movement. As he is pursuing his foe around the ring, the Juggernaut does take a few shots. So far, his chin has held up – his punch resistance looks rock solid – but there is always a question of whether this fight could be the one where that strategy lets Joyce down. In his last outing (July of this year against Christian Hammer), Joyce took several powerful right hands from Hammer before getting rid of him in the fourth round. Would a fighter with better punching power and delivery than Hammer, which Parker definitely possesses, be able to earn a significant breakthrough against Joyce?
Despite his young professional campaign, Joyce has jumped around between trainers. For this fight, he is back with respected Cuban Ismael Salas and held training camp at Salas' Las Vegas gym. If something is working, it might be foolish to tamper with it, but I don't believe for one second that a coach of Salas' standing can be happy about his fighter taking so many clean shots. Will some tweaks have been made to try and limit the punches Joyce ships? But would that take away from what Joyce is trying to do in an attacking sense between the ropes? Ultimately any tactical tampering may come down to whether or not Team Joyce regard Parker as a dangerous enough opponent.
Now based in Morecambe, England, 30-year-old Parker has previously held the WBO heavyweight strap. His 2016 victory over Andy Ruiz, which won him the vacant title, feels long ago – probably because it was. Parker is now trying to get back to title holder status. A pro since 2012, a quick synopsis of Parker's skillset would be that he is an adequate boxer and a good combination puncher who gets gun-shy when he steps up to face opponents nearer the top of the heavyweight rankings. There is also a question mark over whether his power is truly championship class – all of his stoppage wins have come against fighters from the third tier or lower.
Parker last gloved up in December last year against Derek Chisora. That was a rematch of a May 2021 encounter which Parker won by split decision. Parker's victory in December was more a more emphatic unanimous decision but the fact he had Chisora down three times and couldn't close the show backs up the point made above.
The New Zealander possesses excellent footwork and throws quick punches. This should help him land against the slower Joyce, but can he inflict enough cumulative damage on the English boxer to discourage the Juggernaut from his pursuit?
One factor that could help Parker is his trainer, Andy Lee. Lee was well known as an exponent of murderous counterpunches while under pressure or fighting on the back foot. It won him several high-profile fights during his career. Will Lee have worked on Parker holding his feet just a little longer in order to deliver more venomous shots against Joyce? It could be risky as Parker will then be in the pocket longer, but it will probably be needed to crack Joyce's so far titanium jaw.
Parker may also revert to type and try just to do enough to narrowly win enough rounds to take the fight on the cards. In my mind, this would be an equally risky strategy as it may be viewed as running. Also, Joyce will catch up to him at some point during the twelve rounds.
JOYCE VS. PARKER PREDICTION
— Frank Warren (@frankwarren_tv) September 21, 2022
Both fighters box out of the orthodox stance, with Joyce holding a reasonable reach advantage. This means Parker will need to show better footwork more often than not to trouble Joyce. If he can't, then it will be a long night for him eating persistent jabs.
As for Joyce, being an easy target to hit hasn't prevented him from getting to this point, so I believe he will continue in the same vein for this challenge. There may be some subtle changes but nothing glaringly obvious.
Parker will have to get inside and engage. Joyce is regarded as being slow, but he throws counter shots with deceptive speed, so the idea of Parker staying close to land more shots on Joyce might get abandoned once he gets a taste of the power coming from the Englishman.
So, will front-foot pressure and aggression or boxing and moving prevail on Saturday? It says here that while it may not be the most action-packed of fights, it should be tactically absorbing. While Parker will have some moments and win rounds, eventually, he will crack under Joyce's never-ending advances. I expect the Juggernaut to keep moving forward towards a title shot by securing a late stoppage.