Brave Joseph Parker stopped for first time in his career by the 'Juggernaut'
Joseph Parker, blood streaming from his face, has been stopped for the first time in his professional career by Joe Joyce, the man known as the Juggernaut who lived up to his name in Manchester and then some.
In an entertaining fight in which both men scored freely, Englishman Joyce, who goes to 15-0 as a professional and becomes the WBO interim heavyweight champion and the mandatory challenger to Oleksandr Usyk’s world title, was immense.
He is known to have a big engine but his punch volume was near other-worldly for a heavyweight – he poured on the pressure from the second round and Kiwi Parker, while having his moments and showing true courage at times, was forever on the back foot.
It is the first time Parker has been stopped in 33 professional fights, and now that the door on his comeback to retaining his WBO world title appears closed, questions will be asked about whether he wants to continue in this most brutal of sports.
The 30-year-old will now return to Auckland to his family and he has some thinking to do over the Kiwi summer.
It must be said, though, that Parker had his moments throughout. He began brightly and probably won the first round but encountered real adversity in the seventh round when a cut caused by a left hook opened up near his right eye.
He scored with left hooks and big right hands, including with a massive uppercut in the ninth round, but he couldn’t dictate the pace of the fight because he never had a chance to.
Joyce took his space and time and landed almost at will which left Parker occasionally scoring with right hands but none of them appeared to have any effect on a man who appears have one of the strongest chins in the sport.
Parker, confident and with friend and training partner Tyson Fury in his dressing room beforehand, was hoping to display his improvements under new coach Andy Lee following an impressive victory over Derek Chisora in December.
But he appeared tired as early as the end of the second round, whereas his 37-year-old opponent was completely unflustered throughout.
"Joseph Parker, what a fighter, and what a great fight," Joyce said in the ring afterwards. "Praise to Joseph Parker, because he's improved. What a tough fight. I really enjoyed it, it was tough in there. I had to dig deep to get through the rounds.
"I hit him with everything - the kitchen sink, the handbag, everything... body shots, I tried it all. But he was still coming forward. I managed to drop him at the end but it was hard work."
The early rounds were relatively close but Joyce stepped up the pace in the sixth and dominated from there, taking the rest of the rounds apart from perhaps the ninth, a good one for Parker.
In the end Parker required a miracle to win it. He was well behind on points and occasionally staggering under the onslaught. He had never been hit this much in a fight in his career.
Even staying on his feet for the end of the 12th would have been an achievement given the punishment he received, but instead the finish came with almost two minutes remaining in the 11th, Joyce scoring with a big left hook, which Parker, tired and with blood streaming into his right eye, didn’t see.
The three judges had Joyce winning the fight at the stoppage; one by five rounds, one by three and the other by two.