Live: Joseph Parker v Joe Joyce - WBO interim heavyweight world title clash in Manchester
The talking is over and the training done.
Now it's time for Joseph Parker and Joe Joyce to put it all on the line in their eagerly-awaited heavyweight clash in Manchester on Saturday night (Sunday NZT).
A rejuvenated Parker (30-2, 21 KOs) hasn't been seen in the ring since last December, when he dominated Derek Chisora over 12 rounds at the same venue.
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And he faces one of the toughest challenges of his career in the shape of Joyce (14-0, 13 KOs), a towering Brit with power in both hands looking to announce himself as a major player in the sport's marquee division.
Ahead of what promises to be a drama-filled encounter in the UK, here's all you need to know about Parker’s date with destiny and the rest of the undercard at Manchester Arena.What's at stake?
Since Saturday's (Sunday NZT) contest pits the WBO's No 1-ranked contender Joyce against No 2 Parker, the organisation recently upgraded it to WBO interim world title status.
That means the winner will come away with a belt as well as a guaranteed shot at the one currently around Oleksandr Usyk's waist.
So far, so straightforward. But there's a catch. Usyk won't be obliged to fulfil any mandatory obligations immediately (he also holds the IBF and WBA titles), a unification showdown against WBC champion Tyson Fury taking precedence.
In addition, Joyce has a rematch clause should he come unstuck against Parker, further delaying the New Zealander's pursuit of his old belt.
So if Parker wants to be a world champion again, he's going to have to beat the Brit not once, but twice.Who is Joe Joyce?
Hailing from London, Joyce turned professional in 2017 aged 31 after a long and distinguished amateur career in which he won Commonwealth Games gold in 2014 and silver at the Olympics two years later, losing a controversial decision to France's Tony Yoka in the final.
Standing 6ft 6in (193cm) tall and weighing around 263lb (119kg), Joyce is nicknamed the 'Juggernaut' due to his relentless, come-forward style and knack of overwhelming his opponents through sheer pressure.
For such a big man he boasts a great engine and while his handspeed is notoriously sluggish, his workrate, chin and thudding power make up for those shortcomings.
Due to his age and amateur pedigree, Joyce has been moved quickly as a pro, beating the experienced Ian Lewison (12-3, 8 KOs) on his debut.
By his fourth fight he was Commonwealth champion, knocking out Lenroy Thomas in two rounds, and four bouts later he had taken the scalp of former WBC champion Bermane Stiverne.
Another world title challenger, Bryant Jennings, was dispatched in his 10th contest after taking Joyce the distance for the first time. Everyone since has been stopped, most notably red-hot prospect Daniel Dubois (KO10) and one-time Parker foe Carlos Takam (TKO6).
Last time out, he blew away journeyman Christian Hammer in four in a staybusy fight to prepare for Parker. But the German was able to expose some of his defensive flaws and had him hurt on several occasions before eventually being taken out.
Joyce cannot afford to be so careless against Parker if he wants to maintain his unbeaten record and move a step closer to his goal of becoming champion of the world.Who is the favourite?
Surprisingly, Joyce is a slight favourite with the bookmakers, despite being less experienced as a professional (14 fights to Parker's 32) and seven years older than the Kiwi.
However, he is yet to taste defeat in the paid ranks, whereas Parker has suffered that fate twice (back-to-back defeats to Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte in Britain in 2018).
A Joyce win is therefore paying $1.44 at the TAB, while Parker is priced at $2.50. A $1 bet on a draw will put $19 in your pocket.
BT SPORT BOXING
Heavyweight rivals Joseph Parker and Joe Joyce trade insults ahead of their showdown in Manchester.
Ultimately we will find out once the first bell rings and the two fighters' respective gameplans become apparent.
If Joyce boxes more cautiously, using his superior reach to keep Parker on the end of his spear-like jab, then the New Zealander could be in for a long and difficult night trying to get on the inside.
The Brit was able to neutralise Dubois in that way, busting him up and breaking him down from range for a career-best victory.
But if he decides to throw caution to the wind and march forward in search of a knockout like he did against Hammer, that will play right into Parker’s hands.
After all, the Kiwi has a huge advantage in terms of his speed of hand and foot and will be able to catch Joyce as he comes in with overhand rights before moving out of harm's way.
Much has been made about Joyce's granite chin, but he was hurt by both Takam and Hammer and Parker hits harder – and lands more frequently – than either of those faded veterans.
Stamina could also be a factor, with Joyce renowned for his engine and non-stop pressure that eventually overwhelms opponents. Parker will need to gain his respect early with his power and maintain a high output if he is to get the nod on the scorecards.
While it's not out of the question that he wins by knockout should he land hard and often enough, getting the judges' verdict seems the more likely path to victory.What would it mean for Parker if he loses?
That will depend on the nature of the defeat. If Parker is knocked out in devastating fashion, then it would be very damaging to his prospects of ever becoming champion again.
In that scenario, Parker would likely drop down the rankings of the various sanctioning bodies and have to work his way back up into contention. Aged 30 and with 10 years in the fight game, would he have the hunger to take on young, hungry prospects on his way back up the ladder?
Should he lose by decision without taking too much punishment, then Parker can afford to lick his wounds before making one last run at winning a world title. He hasn't lost in six fights across four years and can't be written off completely for losing to a highly-ranked opponent.
And in the event of a close contest or a controversial verdict in Joyce's favour, there might be clamour for an immediate sequel, as we saw when Parker narrowly defeated Derek Chisora.
However, under the terms of the contract, only Joyce is entitled to a sequel should he lose.Who else is on the card?
Aside from an intriguing women's featherweight unification clash between Amanda Serrano (42-2-1, 30 KOs) and Sarah Mahfoud (11-0, 3 KOs), there's not a lot to recommend on the undercard.
Casual fight fans are unlikely to have heard of many of the fringe contenders and up-and-coming British prospects in action on promoter Frank Warren's bill.
The co-main event sees Italy's Michael Magnesi (21-0, 13 KOs) and Northern Irishman Anthony Cacace (19-1, 7 KOs) slug it out for the lightly-regarded IBO super featherweight title.
Ekow Essuman (17-0, 7 KOs) takes on Samuel Antwi (14-1, 6 KOs) for the British and Commonwealth welterweight trinkets, while middleweights Nathan Heaney (15-0, 6 KOs) and Jack Flatley (19-2-1, 4 KOs) face off for the IBO's international belt.How can I watch?
The fight is being shown live on pay-per-view via Sky Arena and Sky Sport Now, priced at $39.99.
Coverage of the undercard gets under way from 6am, with the main event scheduled to start at approximately 10.30am.
AT A GLANCE
What: Joe Joyce v Joseph Parker
Where: Manchester Arena, Manchester
When: Sunday, 25 September (NZT).
Full fight card
Joseph Parker v Joe Joyce (WBO interim world heavyweight title)
Michael Magnesi v Anthony Cacace (super featherweight)
Ekow Essuman v Samuel Antwi (welterweight)
Amanda Serrano v Sarah Mahfoud (featherweight)
Nathan Heaney v Jack Flatley (middleweight)
Raven Chapman v Jorgelina Guanini (featherweight)
Mark Heffron v Martin Ezequiel Bulacio (super middleweight)
James Heneghan v Rod Douglas Jr (middleweight)
Callum Thompson v Delmar Thomas (lightweight)
Amaar Akbar v Karlo Wallace (super lightweight)
Tommy Fletcher v Toni Visic (cruiserweight)
TALE OF THE TAPE
Pro record: 32-2 (21 KOs)
Pro record: 14-0 (13 KOs)
TAB odds: Joyce, $1.44; Parker, $2.50; draw: $19