Joe Joyce stopped Joseph Parker in the 11th round to claim the vacant WBO interim heavyweight title at Manchester’s AO Arena.
Londoner Joyce, who had won all of his previous 14 professional fights, started confidently in the opening round as he took a couple of strong right hands from New Zealand’s Parker, but remained unmoved.
Former WBO world champion Parker – who has shared the ring with the likes of Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz Jr, Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora – was pushed onto the ropes during the third round as Joyce landed a series of telling blows.
The 30-year-old Kiwi, coached by Andy Lee and who trains with Tyson Fury at the WBC heavyweight champion’s base in Morecambe, needed to find a response. Once again, though, Joyce stood up to a big right hand onto his chin towards the end of the fourth.
Joyce kept Parker pushed back onto the ropes with a run of body shots early in the sixth before the 37-year-old also landed a strong uppercut.
Both men then started to feel the pace of what had been a relentless heavyweight contest before a cut opened up over Parker’s right eye, which his corner went to work on at the end of the seventh.
Joyce continued to live up to his ‘juggernaut’ nickname, landing another big right hand in the eighth, before a blooded Parker bravely went forward with a left hook.
At the start of the ninth, Parker, his left eye starting to close, somehow found the strength to go on the offensive, dispatching an uppercut which once again Joyce absorbed.
Parker was eventually dropped by a left hook from Joyce in the 11th. Although he got back to his feet, the New Zealander could not beat the count.
Joyce will now be targeting a shot at a world title later this year or early 2023 – and would appear in prime position to challenge unified champion Oleksandr Usyk.
“It was a tough fight and credit to Parker. He has improved and I really enjoyed it,” Joyce said on BT Sport after his victory.
“I had to dig deep to get through the rounds, I threw everything at him and he was still coming forward. I managed to drop him at the end, but it was hard work.”
Looking to the future, Joyce said: “Usyk let’s get it on.”
Promoter Frank Warren added: “Joe showed why he is the juggernaut. I knew he’d get there in the end but hats off to Joseph Parker, he is a brave warrior.
“We have a new kid on the block here. Joyce is like a fine wine, he is getting better with age.
“He is the mandatory challenger for the WBO title against Usyk and we are going to move heaven and earth to make sure he gets a shot.”
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