For someone who is such a monolith of a man, there are a surprising number of layers to Joe Joyce. At points in our half-hour conversation, Joe Joyce, the undefeated heavyweight boxer, speaks; to others, it’s Joe Joyce the fine arts student, the lifeguard, the cheerleader or the trumpeter.
“When I was a swimming and diving instructor, it was really great to have someone who was really afraid of water and put their head under water – or make them swim three, four blows at the end,” said the Briton. recount The Independent. “Having people who have spent their lives not knowing how to swim and even getting them to put their heads underwater in their late 60s, late 70s, that’s something I found really rewarding.
“I also played the trumpet for quite a few years, I was in the choir at school, I could do some percussion, I went on musical holidays. My little brother is the most musical; he’s in college doing something musical and was at BRIT School he was also at Live Thriller. My father is an art teacher, he restores old mirror frames and my mother was a potter; she makes a series of African heads. Growing up, music and sports were encouraged, as was art. I did my first oil painting when I was seven years old.
“It would be nice to do more art and create more things, to be more creative than the destructive side of boxing.”
Those other sides of Joyce are all ‘authentic’ elements of the 37-year-old, as he puts it.
“I wake up Joe Joyce, I go to sleep Joe Joyce. I’d like to inspire the next generation to come and teach them, lead by example. It’s good to give back. I’d like to lead a movement, like how Muhammad Ali transcended boxing and is one of those pivotal names in history – like Bruce Lee, Bob Marley, Michael Jordan It’s the kind of thing I’d love to leave behind, or at least something that’s get closer.
These are lofty aspirations for a man who presents himself so humbly, but although Joyce has a long way to go to achieve such status, his profile has inflated considerably following his knockout of Joseph Parker in September.
“I noticed when I came back here that I got a lot more recognition,” he says, fresh from a trip to Mallorca. “Overnight I saw the change, where people kind of put me in the top five [at heavyweight] and were interested and excited about some matches with these top fighters.
Joyce, who won silver for Great Britain at the Rio Olympics in 2016, hammered Parker to the canvas with a left hook in the 11th round to Manchester to become interim WBO champion. “When I was in there, I couldn’t remember what shot I stopped him with; it wasn’t until I went back to the locker room and they showed me the clip. I was like, ‘Woah!’
The final blow capped a tireless performance from Joyce, who relentlessly stalked the New Zealander and was unfazed by Parker’s best strikes. “He tried his best, he tried his best, and that wasn’t enough,” Joyce says evenly, before transforming his voice into a nice impression of a 1970s pro wrestler: “And it’s going to take a hell of a bullet to take me down, I’ll tell you!” he bellows, whipping his index finger, before his voice turns to laughter at the last moment.
Joyce’s victory over Parker took the Briton’s professional record to 15-0, with 14 of those wins coming by knockout. The matchup with Parker, much like Joyce’s bout with rising heavyweight Daniel Dubois in 2020, was a risky affair on paper. But in a business where the best rarely fight each other, Joyce showed no concern for tough fighters. At 37, he can’t afford to waste time in tune-up fights or meaningless matchups.
“I’m not here just to make money or be world heavyweight champion,” he insists. “It’s about meeting challenges and overcoming them. I think some of that can be lost in sport. It would be nice to bring back those good times when everyone is fighting against everyone else. People don’t want to lose their ‘0’. I don’t know where this mentality comes from… Maybe from Floyd Mayweather? This is why many [big] fights don’t happen.
It’s a trend that’s at odds with what fans want — a trend that goes against basic fighting instinct, Joyce claims.
“There’s this excitement when you’re in school, and someone in the playground is yelling, ‘Fight, fight. It starts, and the whole school comes together… It’s this primal excitement that people feel, it’s this kind of raw entertainment. When I was in elementary school, I had a lot of fights – two on one, or they started the fight and I finished it. I’ve always been a head taller than everyone else. At the start of rugby, there were five or six guys hanging around me, trying to slow me down.
Ironically, one criticism of Joyce has been his perceived lack of speed, but if that’s a valid criticism, that hasn’t stopped the “Juggernaut” from building momentum in fights through his pressure and volume output. . Since Joyce’s win over Parker, suddenly there have been cries for the Brit to face the likes of Tyson’s Fury and fellow Olympian Antoine Joshua. The visual of Joyce scaled by students on the rugby pitch, coupled with discussions around Fury and Joshua, naturally lead us to consider whether Joyce would rather fight five smaller Furys or one gargantuan Joshua.
“Five little Fury’s would be a pain in the ass, wouldn’t it?” he’s laughing. “It would be so boring to be around them!” They would come from all angles, you can’t hit them, the head movement… But imagine the punch on a massive sized Joshua…”
Before long, Joyce may not even have to imagine the punch on a life-size Joshua, which – as the 37-year-old acknowledges – is quite an intriguing proposition as it stands.
Joyce’s willingness to take on such challenges is an endearing part of her personality – and her approach to her profession.
This dichotomy, between the personality and the profession of the “nice Juggernaut”, will only make his journey all the more fascinating.