Heavyweight contender Joe Joyce has called the shot that Daniel Dubois nailed Oleksandr Usyk with ‘questionable.’
Joyce meets 6ft 6in Chinese contender Zhilei Zhang on Saturday in a rematch of their April match. Zhang won that, when Joyce could not continue having sustained damage to his right eye.
Joyce boxed Usyk in the amateurs, and the British heavyweight seemed to be on the verge of a title fight until he ran into Zhang, but Joyce watched Usyk’s recent victory over another former Joyce foe, Daniel Dubois.
“[Oleksandr] Usyk’s obviously got a phenomenal ring IQ, footwork, timing, and it was a dominant performance from him, apart from that questionable shot.”
Many felt Usyk was imperious, some felt he was only hampered by low shots, but others felt he has been sharper than he was against Dubois in Poland last month. Does Joyce feel the 36-year-old Ukrainian is in decline?
“I don’t know, because in that fight, he didn’t look as good in the last fight [against Anthony Joshua], in terms of throwing a lot of punches, but maybe there’s some different tactics going on there, maybe he thought he didn’t have to throw as many shots, and he stopped him [Daniel Dubois] with the jab, essentially,’ Joyce explained. “Yeah, he is getting up there in age, and is obviously a natural cruiserweight, not a heavyweight so, maybe that’s a little bit different where he’s had to put on more size and weight.”
Joyce-Zhang is one of the more meaningful heavyweight fights in what has been a frustrating year for the big men at the highest level.
Tyson Fury, the consensus No. 1, will only be seen once this year and that will be on October 28 against MMA star Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia. Ironically, Joyce is likely one of the very few people who have sparred both Fury and Ngannou and he is keen to see the heavyweight event.
“Yeah, I’m excited to have a look, it’s a bit of a spectacle, but I’m expecting good things,” Joyce said. “I’ve seen some good things in terms of [Francis] Ngannou, [training] with Mike Tyson. I’m interested to see what he comes up with on the night. [Tyson] Fury obviously is a lot more experienced, he’s taller, longer ranged fighter and he’s used to boxing where as Ngannou, he hits hard, but obviously he’s used to the UFC style, which is a different kind of range and there’s grappling involved, but he started with boxing so, I’m interested to see what he comes up with.”
Of Ngannou, Joyce said: “He hits hard, if you let him hit you.”
And hitting Tyson Fury is not an easy task, and that could be Ngannou’s undoing.
“Because boxing is only with your hands, with a little bit more finesse, you can see the openings a lot more, and the UFC style is a lot more open, so at that time with the sparring I found it easier to get out of the way and I could kind of see where the shots where coming from, but they were big, powerful shots, and luckily none of them landed cleanly, because he can really hit,” Joyce said of Ngannou.
Unlike many, Joyce was loathe to predict what might happen on October 28. He might think that Fury, despite Fury’s insistence that it is not the case, will take his eye off the ball. That’s what Joyce claims happened the first time against Zhang.
“I’m not too sure, we’re gonna have to wait until the fight kicks off, and I haven’t seen much of [Tyson] Fury in his training camp or any footage, but I’m interested to see it, it’s a big event. It’s a big more of a spectacle, that draws a big audience and a lot of excitement.”
Conventional wisdom is that Fury will outbox Ngannou and do what he wants. When pressed, that is what Joyce thinks is most likely, too.
“I think so, if he keeps it at range and just flick jabs him to death, he can do it like that,” Joyce explained. “But it depends on [Francis] Ngannou, if he can close the range and start sinking some to the body and head, like from what I’ve seen from his training footage with Mike Tyson, if he can get that off, but [Tyson] Fury’s been doing it for a long time and he’s very experienced, and he’s got a height and reach advantage over him.”