BY JACK BURGESS
Joe Joyce is looking to bounce back from his shock defeat to Zhilei Zhang earlier this year in a highly anticipated rematch at the OVO Arena on Saturday night.
‘The Juggernaut’ produced a disappointing performance in the first bout, with Zhang exerting complete dominance and control from round one, and eventually stopping the Putney-born heavyweight by TKO in the sixth round after Joyce was unable to see through a swollen right eye, which plagued him from the first.
It was a first defeat in Joyce’s professional career to Zhang, having won his previous 15 fights, with 14 by knockout. The defeat saw Joyce lose his WBO interim heavyweight title to Zhang.
Zhang had lost just one in 26 bouts, winning 24 with 19 by knockout.
Joyce came into the first fight after a knockout victory over Joseph Parker, sending the New Zealander to the canvas in round 11 via a left hook to the right eye.
The first bout saw Joyce struggle with Zhang’s awkward southpaw style, with the south Londoner’s much talked about ‘iron chin’ unable to withstand relentless pressure from the Chinese heavyweight.
There was a noticeable difference in weight between the two heavyweights in the first fight, with Joyce weighing in at 256ibs, while Zhang came in at 278ibs, over a stone heavier.
Joyce’s promoter and head of Queensbury promotions Frank Warren admitted at Thursday’s press conference that the 37-year-old may not have had full focus on the first bout and possibly underestimated Zhang.
“We weren’t talking about that fight – we were talking about the world title fight,” admitted Warren.
“Everybody was. And that’s the danger of overlooking the immediate task. But for sure, he’s not overlooking it this time.”
Joyce himself has made it clear that he expects another tough fight but feels that he has learned from his defeat.
“The first fight exposed a lot of mistakes that me and my team made in the camp, and it’s about correcting those,” said Joyce.
“Not overlooking Zhang, I need to get those things right.”
After the defeat, there was speculation of Zhang being a potential opponent for Tyson Fury, but Joyce was quick to trigger his rematch clause.
Zhang, 40, spoke of how he felt that he was underestimated in the first fight and made his intentions clear as to where he feels he could exploit Joyce in the press conference.
“For the first fight, you gave me the opportunity, but your team made a mistake in choosing me,” said Zhang.
“And your team is going for the rematch, which is a bigger mistake. I’m here to end your career.”
‘Big bang’ Zhang also made it clear as to how he plans to stop Joyce.
“It’s nice and simple. I know his weakness is his eye,” he added.
The fight has been billed as a ‘make or break’ for Joyce, with defeat leaving him with few avenues to go down in the heavyweight division, with his dream world title shot being extremely far-fetched in those circumstances.
The winner of the fight will move closer to a possible fight against Oleksandr Usyk, although that is not guaranteed. However, a victory would give Joyce various avenues to explore – with a possible second fight with Daniel Dubois a possibility and fights with Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua less likely potential opportunities.
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