Trainer Andy Lee is confident the fans are in for a treat on Saturday in Manchester when heavyweight contenders Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker collide.
The meet for the WBO’s Interim title and Lee, Parker’s trainer, believes Parker has become a better fighter since they have been working together.
“I think Joseph has improved a lot, probably he’s improved everything he does,” Lee said. “The biggest thing for Joseph is concentration and keeping it for three minutes every round… staying distant, with his shape. We’ve worked on several combinations for when he’s in different positions, whether his back is to the ropes, he’s in the centre of the ring… how to start attacks, land the attacks and then move.”
Neutrals hope for fireworks, but Lee’s talk of concentration leads one to believe Parker will try to box his way to victory and not get involved.
“It's more about concentration,” Lee continued. “Being clear in his thinking and his thoughts, being disciplined, not getting too greedy, not panicking when he’s in a tight situation, being calm, composed, clear but also cold and spiteful at the same time.”
There is, also, however, the danger that Joyce cuts the ring down and at some points Parker is going to have to stand and fight.
“Joyce is going to be coming,” the Irishman acknowledged. “They think Joseph Parker takes too many breaks and has too many rests and fades so it’s set up nicely for both fighters... There’s no way you can’t make it a fun fight, because Joe Joyce will come forward, won’t he? He’ll have to come forward and try and engage but Parker’s not going to run. I think if you run, you give him [Joyce] too much momentum he will just keep coming and he will run over you. He’s a juggernaut, so Parker has to earn his respect and he’s got to respect the distance and Joyce has to be made to respect the distance. Parker’s punching very hard, so I think it will be an exciting fight.”
Much is made of Joyce’s relentless nature, his aggression, his power and his ability to take a shot. Not much is made of his ability, but Lee refuses to see him as the one-dimensional fighter he’s often conveyed as.
“It could be different when you get in there with him,” Lee said. “I’m sure when you watch from the outside he’s very crude and predictable. He's a big man and he uses what he was born with. He has an extremely high workrate and that’s obviously something he works on but in terms of his strength and his size, he uses it to his advantage, but when you’re in there with him he probably does small things, I know he leans back, moves different ways to avoid punches, but I don’t know if he’s underrated. He’s an Olympic silver medallist boxer and you don’t get those without having some kind of grade, but he’s never fought somebody like Joseph in a professional fight. Joseph is much more experienced and a proven 12-round fighter so all of those things go in our favour.”
The winner will be in pole position to make an assault on the top names of the division. Parker has already tasted the big time, with fights against the likes of Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz, but Lee thinks it’s unlikely Parker would face his campmate, Tyson Fury, so he will look for other avenues in his quest to become a two-time world heavyweight champion. Deontay Wilder meets Robert Helenius next month, Joshua might look to rebuild and if he is looking for a world tour, as promoter Eddie Hearn has suggested, a Parker rematch could draw Down Under. Then there’s multi-belt champion Oleksandr Usyk.
“He [Parker]’s probably not going to fight Fury,” agreed Lee. “But there are some big fights out there. Money isn’t an issue for him, he’s fighting because he wants it and he loves it and he wants to be a two-time world champion. When he became champion, I think he feels he let himself down and he never really reached the next level and I think he wants to do that. I think he can see how close he is to doing it, he’s in touching distance of being in the top four or five heavyweights in the world and he wants people to speak about him in those terms.”