Joe Joyce goes looking for redemption when he rematches Zhilei Zhang tomorrow night at the Wembley Arena in the English capital.
Joyce comes off a sixth round stoppage defeat to the Chinese southpaw this past April, coming under large criticism due to the nature of his lone career defeat.
There is a lot on the line in London when the two Olympic silver medalists collide, the winner will sit in pole position for the WBO heavyweight world title currently occupied by Ukrainian superstar Oleksandr Usyk.
ProBox TV caught up with former WBO super featherweight world champion and now commentator Barry Jones to get his expert view on the heavyweight rematch.
“This all about Oleksandr Usyk, this fight has nothing to do with Tyson Fury.” Jones said in response as to what the ramifications are for the winner of the bout. “Frank Warren has been very clever. He has Daniel Dubois pushing for a rematch with the WBA, which I don’t think he is going to get. This is for the WBO interim title and he will be due a mandatory, they will dramatically be pushing for that automatically if Joyce wins. Oleksandr Usyk will have to give up one of those titles. Frank can get ahead with that, Joyce potentially fights somebody else for the title down the line. You also have Filip Hrgovic pushing with the IBF. Usyk will have to pick which title he wants the most and which fight is the best for him, while this is going on they are trying to make Usyk-Fury, Usyk vs Deontay Wilder. There is a lot going on, the way things are going Usyk will face Tyson Fury for the WBC title, the WBC look like they will let him keep that until the day he dies by the looks of things. They will be more on the line in the rematch because it looks like a world title shot could be imminent, a lot more motivation to win, a bigger carrot being dangled in front of you.
“However, it is a big ask for Joe Joyce. I don’t think we can see much of a change in him in such a short space of time. We have all known what he is since the amateurs. He is effective, but he is Route 1, he’s not hard to train for but he is hard to fight against. He is not hard to study, you know exactly what he is going to do. The problem is, you can’t stop him from doing it. He had been this unstoppable force. If you have good footwork and movement he wears you down and beats you up, makes you tire and knocks you out. He has relied on his innate toughness and fantastic chin, his fantastic chin is still there but nothing is bulletproof. The punches you don’t see have more of an effect, we saw that I’m the last flight because of the eye. The eye was a factor, but Joyce was taking heavy shots off a guy who could punch, you saw what happened, he couldn’t deal with Zhang. He made Zhang look fast, in fact that was the best I’ve seen Zhang. You do have to remember who was in the opposite corner though, a slow ponderous fighter in Joe Joyce. As good as he’s been, he is still slow and ponderous. I remember commentating his fight against Bryant Jennings, Joyce boxed well and won the fight, but I remember saying ‘it looks like Joyce is punching under water’ just because the punches are so slow. I think that is why he doesn’t knock many out cold because there is no speed in his shots. Whereas Zhang has a bit of pace in his punches, he is not the fastest but he is accurate and he is very economical with his shots.”
Zhang comes in as the favourite in London tomorrow night. Joyce returns with question marks against his name.
“Zhang’s problem has always been his engine.” Jones continued, “I always fancied Joyce in the first fight because Zhang can’t work for the full three minutes of a round. In the first fight I thought Joyce would make him work too hard, too early and Zhang would be exhausted after seven rounds. Against Joyce he seemed to have more energy about him. I think Joyce has to find a way to make Zhang work too hard. He will still have to use his chin against Zhang though. Let's remember he’s had some fantastic trainers in the past that haven’t changed him. Adam Booth’s whole MO is fast hands and working with explosive fighters. He couldn’t seem to change his lateral movement, he tried to widen his stance a bit too. Ismael Salas is a fantastic trainer in his own right of course, but he’s had him for a long time now and he hasn’t changed. Joyce looked his loosest against Daniel Dubois, but maybe Dubois is a bit stiff too. It looked a bit against Zhang that he hadn’t boxed a southpaw before, which is quite outstanding considering he was a world class amateur boxer where every other fight is against a left hander.
“Zhang had his foot on the outside and kept landing right down the middle of the line, it was relentless. All these people talking about using the amateur pedigree, there is more amateur pedigree in Zhang. He also won a silver medal and two medals at World Championships, also medalled at Asian Games, he is more experienced in that department too. It is a huge ask for Joe Joyce. He does have the home crowd and he is a tough guy, I think for the first time in his pro career he’s got questions to answer. We will see what he is all about now.”