David Haye believes this weekend’s big heavyweight fight between Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker is too close to call, but believes Joyce has to improve his defense if he is going to beat Parker or have any chance of winning a world title. 

Saturday’s fight in Manchester is for the interim WBO title, but Haye, who will be part of the broadcasting team on BT Sport Box Office, has plenty of knowledge of both. Parker comes into the fight after two wins over Derek Chisora, who Haye used to manage, while Haye was Joyce’s promoter during the early days of his professional career. 

“No matter how good your chin is, you can’t take it in 10oz gloves for 12 rounds against a world-class puncher,” Haye said. “As impressive as it is to get punched in the head and not be hurt, it is not the cleverest strategy.” 

Haye says that much of his time when he promoted Joyce was taken up telling him to improve defensively. 

“He has no real regard for what is coming in his direction and at a certain level, you can get away with it,” Haye said. “I’ve never known a heavyweight champion who has won a world title by just absorbing punches in the head. It’s not clever to do that. 

“The way I have always seen it is that punch resistance is like chopping down a tree. No matter how big the tree is, if you hit it with an axe a thousand times, sooner or later the tree is going to come down. You don’t know which shot is going to do it, but, in my opinion, he has taken unnecessary shots from fighters that he could have avoided, by taking a step back, moving his head or blocking. 

“He has taken full-blooded shots to the head and they don’t hurt him at the time, it doesn’t bother him. But it should bother him and it used to bother me when I worked with him, all of my energy at the time was talking to him and his coach about not taking punch after punch. ‘We know you can throw combinations, we know you have a massive engine and we know you can take a punch – how about we try not to get hit clean in the face with someone’s best shot?’ 

“He was doing it and at some stage it was working quite well, but looking at his last two fights, I don’t know what is getting told to him in the corner. It could just be ‘this is you, that’s your style, let’s just move forward’.” 

Part of the issue could be Joyce’s age. While he has only had 14 professional fights, he turned 37 this week, having been 30 when he won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics. 

“I’ve always been surprised at his work ethic, his toughness and his punch resistance, I would have liked him to be in the position he is now three years ago,” Haye said. “But everyone chooses the path they feel is best for them, you only have one career, but he has just turned 37 and he is fighting in a final eliminator, it’s taken a little while. 

“His style has been set since the amateurs, he hasn’t adapted much since the Olympics, you look at a tape of him there and his last fight and it hasn’t changed much. 

“But he was a fully-grown man when he went to the Olympics, the same as Audley Harrison was. He peaked at the Olympics and now he has to get a world title shot as quickly as possible because those years go by very quickly if you are having two or three fights a year. I would have loved him to be more active. 

“I was trying to get a bit of lateral movement, punch off a counter because he has very good reflexes and he is a dynamic, explosive person – he can do a full back flip. So, he has the explosiveness to do all the things he needs to do, he just needs to practice and implement them, in sparring and in fights. He is going to need punch evasion against a guy who punches as hard as Joseph Parker.” 

Haye also believes that many people under-estimated former WBO champion Parker, whom he describes as a “formidable opponent”. 

“Parker has seen it, done it, been there,” Haye said. He has been a heavyweight champion of the world and has the scalp of Andy Ruiz Jr, who has just beaten King Kong Ortiz, so everyone knows how good he is. He has been in some tough fights. His two fights with Chisora show he has the engine, and the chin, because he got hit with some massive shots, but the changes before the first fight and the second fight shows he is improving. 

“This is a massive opportunity. We know at European level he takes the shots but uses his physicality to grind out results. The biggest name on his record is Daniel Dubois, but that performance against Dubois I don’t feel is good enough to beat Parker. He is to be a lot more savvy, a lot slicker and he won’t get hit by as many jabs as it appeared Dubois did. So, Joyce will have to do something he hasn’t done before. 

“We all know what he can do, which is take obscene amounts of abuse and punches in the head. The only crack I have seen in Joyce was against Bryant Jennings when he took a left hook to the body and seemed to wince. 

“Everyone has been so focused on how good his chin is, maybe they should attack the body. Parker can fire well to the body and he showed against Dillian Whyte that he holds his power for the full 12 rounds. Parker had deceivingly fast hands and if you are easy to hit, he will hit you. If you leave a gap, he is quick enough and smart enough to counter.” 

BT Sport Box Office will show Joe Joyce v Joseph Parker exclusively live on Saturday in the UK. Learn more at bt.com/sportboxoffice