Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker were already prepared to fight for the sake of proving who is the better man in the ring.
The stakes are now raised for their forthcoming clash.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that Joyce-Parker will now come with the interim WBO heavyweight title on the line in their September 24 BT Sport Box Office main event at AO Arena in Manchester, England. A joint request filed on August 23 by Queensberry Promotions and BOXXER—promoters for Joyce and Parker, respectively—was approved by the WBO.
“The WBO Championship Committee… grants sanction approval of the Interim Heavyweight Championship between Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker subject to the conditions stated herein,” WBO Championship Committee chairman Luis Batista-Salas noted in a ruling reached on Monday and submitted Tuesday evening to all involved parties via letter, a copy of which was obtained by BoxingScene.com. “Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker understand, agree, and accept all the conditions stated herein and any other provisions hereinafter established by this Committee as a condition to granting sanction approval for the Interim Championship Contest.
“If Joe Joyce and/or Joseph Parker suffer(s) an injury that prevents his participation, is prevented to participate, impaired to participate, or unavailable to participate for whatever reasons in the Interim Championship bout, WBO Championship Committee shall proceed per WBO Regulations of World Championship Contests.”
The request came about due to concern that the winner would not receive a due mandatory title shot.
Reigning unified WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Usyk (20-0, 13KOs) is coming off a repeat win over Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22KOs) on August 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The bout took place eleven months after Usyk dethroned Joshua last September at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London, having entered the fight as the mandatory challenger in waiting.
The WBO noted in its ruling the concern that its title was only at stake once each in the past two calendar years. Joshua previously defended the titles just once prior to losing to Usyk, having knocked out IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev in their December 2020 battle at Wembley’s SSE Arena.
Usyk has hardly embarked on a celebration tour following his latest win. There have been extensive reports of talks in place for an undisputed championship showdown with lineal/WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (32-0-1, 23KOs), which would likely take place in the first quarter of 2023 if finalized in the coming months.
Such a bout would put all four titles on hold in terms of mandatory contenders getting their due crack at the sport’s most storied prize. London’s Joyce (14-0, 13KOs) currently serves as the top-rated WBO heavyweight contender, with Parker (30-2, 21KOs)—a former WBO titlist from Auckland, New Zealand—ranked directly behind him. From the moment the two agreed to terms, it was believed that something far greater than bragging rights would be at stake for their anticipated battle, which will also air on ESPN+ in the United States.
Frank Warren, Joyce’s Hall of Fame promoter who also co-promotes Fury, contacted the WBO on August 23, seeking approval for the sanctioning body to make an interim title available for the fight. Ben Shalom was included on the request, as Parker’s promoter and CEO/founder of BOXXER. Warren included in his request the strong possibility of Fury-Usyk taking place in early 2023 and “that considering the likelihood of the bout being staged the sanction approval of Interim Championship is justified between the highest two available world-rated contenders in Joe Joyce and former WBO Champion Joseph Parker.
“In support therefore, the petitioner asserts that by virtue of the Interim Championship being contested, the rights and interests of the rest of the Heavyweight contenders in the division would be duly protected.”
Joyce and Parker have been ranked number-one and two since last October, the first update after Usyk dethroned Joshua to advance from mandatory challenger to unified champion.
Joyce—a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist for Great Britain—punched his way into contention after a tenth-round knockout of Daniel Dubois in their November 2020 battle of unbeaten heavyweights. Two wins have followed—a sixth-round stoppage of Carlos Takam last July, then recovering from injury to return with a fourth-round knockout of Christian Hammer on July 2 at Wembley’s SSE Arena.
The July 2 fight date was originally reserved for Joyce-Parker, but altered once Parker opted to sign with BOXXER in taking his career in a different direction. It eventually led him back to Joyce, carrying a six-fight win streak following his loss to Joshua in their April 2018 unification bout to end his WBO reign and a narrow points loss to Dillian Whyte just three months later. Parker is coming off back-to-back wins over Derek Chisora in 2021, both taking place at AO Arena where he will now appear for the third straight time.
The winner won’t necessarily be in a position to challenge for the full WBO title, though precisely why the WBO reached such a ruling.
“In light of the foregoing circumstances and seeking to protect the rights, interests, and opportunities of the remaining contenders in the Heavyweight Division, we rule that an Interim Heavyweight Championship is justified,” noted Batista-Salas. “Even more so between the two highest-rated available contenders in the division the highly regarded undefeated Joe Joyce and the former WBO Heavyweight Champion Joseph Parker, respectively.
“By virtue of [Monday’s] ruling, we take affirmative action by assuring the fans that the fights that they clamor for and desire take place for the betterment of the sport of boxing without undermining the rights of the other contenders.”
The ruling adds to an already highly anticipated event. Joyce-Parker is supported by a terrific featherweight title unification bout between record-setting, seven-division and reigning WBC/WBO/IBO champ Amanda Serrano (42-2-1, 30KOs) and IBF titlist Sarah Mahfoud (11-0, 3KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox