IT doesn’t happen too often in boxing, but sometimes common sense does prevail and sometimes fights that seem natural and easy ones to make do actually get made.
Today, for example, the heavyweight clash between Joe Joyce and Joseph Parker was officially confirmed, having appeared to have fallen victim to the politics of rival promotional companies only a matter of weeks ago. It will, I’m pleased to report, now apparently take place on September 24 in Manchester and should it do so it will become that rarest of things: precisely the fight both men need at this stage of their respective careers.
Indeed, it was for that reason the fight was being talked about months ago, back when it appeared a considerably easier fight to make. Boxing being boxing, though, there had to be a stumbling block on the path of common sense and on this occasion that stumbling block happened to be Joseph Parker’s decision to align himself with Boxxer and Sky Sports, a direct ‘rival’ of Joe Joyce’s promoter, Frank Warren, and their home on BT Sport.
Seemingly a dealbreaker, if a deal was ever in place, we all then instantly assumed, so low are our expectations of promoters and their ability to get fights made, that this fight was now off the table; one consigned to the pile of fights that should have happened but for one reason or another never did.
Left with no choice but to suck it up and move on, Joyce, on July 2, boxed Christian Hammer, stopping him in four rounds, while Parker, the opponent we all wanted for Joyce, waited in the wings to make his move: his first on Sky Sports.
It was presumably then, however, at some point between Joyce, 14-0 (13), walking through an overmatched Romanian and Parker, 30-2 (21), sensing that big-money opportunities are scarce right now, the two camps set their egos to one side and began to communicate again. Shortly after that, it would seem, they figured out that Joyce vs. Parker is the only fight that makes sense for the two heavyweights and promptly shook hands on a deal.
It’s a good fight, too, of that there is no doubt. For making it happen, both boxers and their teams deserve credit, particularly given they were armed with myriad excuses for it not to happen; excuses, that is, with no basis in reality but instead entirely self-created and perpetuated throughout the history of boxing (promoters can’t work together, TV contracts have zero wiggle room, etc).
In getting the deal done, Team Joyce and Team Parker have shown that fighters can indeed cross the promotional divide, which can only be positive thing for the sport. They have done so for entirely selfish reasons, of course, despite telling you the fight has been made due to popular demand, but that’s okay. The important thing is that both fighters understood quickly that their options were limited – nobody wants to fight Joyce, and Parker’s stock is perhaps not as high as it once was – and had enough foresight and humility to then return to the negotiating table from which both had fled just a couple of months ago.
The only negative to this fight, in fact, on the face of it, is that it will, as per the announcement, run as a pay-per-view event on BT Sport Box Office. That seems the boldest and riskiest of the decisions both parties have made to get the fight signed and it is one that could potentially backfire when all is said and done. For in the end, despite both Joyce and Parker being solid heavyweight contenders, and despite them being the two most likeable fighters in the division, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the British public are itching to pay money to see the two of them fight on a Saturday night.
Fingers crossed I’m out of touch there, but for now, with many weeks of buildup to go before the first bell, let’s just be happy that two heavyweights – and, more importantly, the men advising them – came to their senses and realised that two Joes are far more interesting than one.