There are easier ways to make a living.
It’s the thing that comes to mind, but louder, with each subsequent fight. Watching Joe Joyce work his way up the heavyweight ranks is an exercise in being impressed on one hand and feeling sorry for world class fighters who signed up for a trip to hell.
What’s it like to be in the ring with a 6’6, 270 lb. behemoth with an eighty-inch reach, barely a bit of fat on him, with the motor to throw 70-100 punches a round?
What’s it like hitting that behemoth, that aptly nicknamed “Juggernaut” with flush power shots, even the sort of blind hooks and uppercut Joyce couldn’t see coming, only to see Joyce firing back with the same level of indifference one shows in swatting away flies at a picnic?
Joseph Parker, a former heavyweight titlist who had never been stopped before last Saturday, can tell you what it was like. It’s more than likely Parker, still feeling many of the blows Joyce landed with each recovering step and breath he takes, can tell you if he’d do it again.
Fans were rewarded regardless. Nights like this may not make Joyce a first choice for future opponents right now but what fan wouldn’t want more? Joyce-Parker was one hell of a heavyweight fight. Two big men blasting away at each other, leaving it all in the ring until one couldn’t give anymore.
That’s what everyone comes to see, the root appeal of boxing boiled down to its essence. With Joyce, it’s what we’re getting regularly. He’s the best young 37-year old heavyweight in the world. Will he get a chance to find out if he’s the best heavyweight in the world period?
Futures: Joyce is now positioned to be the mandatory challenger for WBO titlist Oleksandr Usyk but whether that can be next remains to be seen. There are easier ways to make a living. In Usyk’s case, that’s not the calculus. Usyk wants to unify the heavyweight crown next year. That means a fight with Tyson Fury. Fury isn’t anyone’s easier day at the office, and that clash would pay more. Joyce, who has shared a ring with Usyk before they were professional stars, is a legitimate obstacle to a big payday. If the WBO allows Usyk to unify first, Joyce waits.
Joyce-Usyk would be fascinating for sure. Can the master boxer, now in his mid-30s, hold off the bigger man for what would be a long twelve rounds? What of Joyce-Fury? It would certainly be a big fight in the UK and one that will get bigger as Joyce keeps winning. Joyce’s age means he doesn’t have forever but he’s within spitting distance of his chances. Patience and wins will get him there.
While Joyce waits for a title shot, another fighter will soon be hunting for a title in his third weight class.
Stevenson Tiptoes to 135
It was supposed to be a title defense. Instead, Shakur Stevenson left two alphabet straps and the lineal Jr. lightweight throne on the scales and went out to dominate 2016 Olympic gold medalist Robson Conceicao with deft defense, a more offensive approach, and a low blow game a prime Julio Cesar Chavez would have to admire.
Stevenson took more clean shots against Conceicao than he probably has against anyone as a pro but he rarely took two in a row. He arrives now at lightweight at a time when Top Rank has a loaded cupboard in the division. World champion Devin Haney and former titlist Vasyl Lomachenko are the two biggest names available and a clash with either could move Stevenson closer to stardom.
Futures: It’s always been funny how many names were bandied about as part of some future epic multi-man rivalry without considering Stevenson. Anyone who has ever seen him in person knew he was coming up the scale sooner than later and lightweight probably isn’t his last stop.
Stevenson is a threat right now to Haney if Haney can also keep making the lightweight limit. Lomachenko may get the first crack at Haney after Haney beats George Kambosos again (and let’s not even pretend on that outcome). That could mean one of two things in the second half of 2023 assuming the business at lightweight stays in house at Top Rank: Stevenson challenging one of the game’s most respected veterans or a clash of mid-20s studs. There’s no bad option there.
Don’t be surprised if Keyshawn Davis is better than anyone at lightweight in eighteen months. In a crop of potentially special talents around lightweight, Davis might be the bluest chip of them all…Amanda Serrano added another belt at featherweight. What comes next? A trip back to lightweight for a Katie Taylor rematch, the winner of Mikaela Mayer-Alycia Baumgardner at Jr. lightweight, and Erika Cruz Hernandez for complete featherweight unification are all good options. Hernandez hasn’t lost since her second pro fight.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com
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The Juggernaut Rolls On: Weekend Afterthoughts – BoxingScene.com
There are easier ways to make a living.