MANCHESTER, ENGLAND -- Joe Joyce provided more proof he is ready for a world heavyweight title shot by coming through a fierce fight to knock out Joseph Parker in the 11th round Saturday.
In an enthralling encounter, Parker had spells of dominance in the early rounds before Joyce took control in the sixth and then finished off his opponent with a swiping left hook.
The English boxer captured the vacant WBO "interim" belt -- less prestigious than the WBO world title held by Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk -- to supposedly secure a world title shot in 2023.
While WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and former WBA-IBF-WBO champ Anthony Joshua are in talks for a fight at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Dec. 3, their fellow Englishman Joyce put himself forward as an alternative option for Fury.
Like Fury, Joyce is promoted by Frank Warren in the U.K., and unlike Joshua, he is in winning form after beating New Zealand's Parker at the AO Arena in Manchester. Those are two factors, along with Joyce's availability and willingness to fight Fury, putting the Londoner in the frame to possibly face Fury next.
Joyce said: "It was a tough fight, I had to dig deep to get through the rounds. I hit him with everything I had, kitchen sink, body shots, he came through it all."
Joshua has lost on points to WBA-IBF-WBO champion Usyk in his past two fights yet has received an offer from Fury to fight him next, which leaves Joyce to wait and hope talks between Fury and Joshua fall through.
This win at least secures a WBO title shot for Joyce, but he might have to wait deep into 2023 for it. Usyk is recovering from injury after outpointing Joshua on Aug. 20, and if he pursues a title unification fight with the WBC champion as his next fight, Joyce will have to get in the queue.
And further down that queue will be Parker.
After rebuilding his career following losses to Joshua and Dillian Whyte in 2018, Parker faces another period of restoring his career after a two-defense reign as WBO titleholder from 2016 to 2017.
The New Zealander started aggressively behind his jab, and at one point drove Joyce across the ring with a series of short jabs. Parker also landed a good right hook later in the first round, but Joyce was more active in the second round.
Parker escaped serious damage by moving out of the corner with Joyce poised to land big shots on more than one occasion.
Both exchanged big right hooks early in a thunderous third round, and later in the session Parker jolted back Joyce's head with uppercuts as he began to impose some authority.
Joyce kept coming forward, and Parker kept finding him with big shots. In the fourth, Parker landed a huge right hand -- but Joyce hardly flinched.
With Fury shouting advice and encouragement from ringside, Parker seemed to have the better of the early rounds but his defense fell apart in the sixth. It was a turning point and Joyce wobbled Parker with a series of shots in the seventh round.
Joyce landed a big overhand right later in the round to split open a cut above Parker's right eye, which produced a steady stream of blood down the New Zealander's face.
Joyce increased the punch rate in the eighth round, while Parker dabbed at his cut and looked at the point of being overwhelmed.
Joyce landed more in a thrilling 10th, though Parker rallied to end the round with a volley of shots.
But Parker looked vulnerable, with blood pouring from above his eye, and in the 11th round Joyce uncorked a big left hook to send him falling backward. It was a heavy knockdown and after Parker got to his feet at the count of eight, referee Steve Gray stopped the fight after one minute and 3 seconds.
Joyce, who recently turned 37, cannot afford to take it easy and whomever he faces for a title, next year sets up as his optimum time given the form he is in and his age.