Heavyweight Joe Joyce [15-1, 14KO’s] still believes he remains on a collision course with unified world heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk in 2024 despite seeking redemption in his upcoming rematch with Zhilei Zhang [25-1-1, 20KO’s] on September 23. The heavyweight pair will meet at Wembley Arena, London, with Joyce seeking to recapture his WBO mandatory position and avenge the sole blemish on his professional record.
Joyce was stopped in six rounds by Zhang in April as he sought to solidify his mandatory status and continue building momentum towards a heavyweight title challenge, with Zhang genuinely tearing up the script of what was expected of Joyce. What was expected by promoter Frank Warren was that the ‘Juggernaut’ would keep marching on towards an opportunity to face unified world champion Oleksandr Usyk.
The rematch comes five months from the original contest, which saw Joyce halted by the ringside doctor due to damage around the right eye. Joyce remained determined to recapture his WBO mandatory position.
“Once I get this interim title back, I’m right back in place to fight for [the IBF, WBA and WBO] titles,” Joyce told BoxingScene.com. “It was very important to fight Zhang again right away. Once I regain that title, I’m right back in the mandatory position.”
However, Joyce does admit that he will have to be patient and wait for his opportunity due to how the lay of the land is currently positioning itself within the heavyweight ranks and whose turn it is to challenge for the unified WBA, WBO & IBF world heavyweight titles. Filip Hrgovic [16-0, 13KO’s], courtesy of the IBF, is the next mandatory challenger in line to challenge Usyk for the prestigious unified heavyweight titles.
Former Joyce foe Daniel Dubois [19-2, 18KO’s] challenged Usyk for the unified titles in Poland last month and succumbed to a ninth-round knockout, with Uysk fulfilling his WBA mandatory obligations.
“Obviously, it will be the IBF and Hrgovic next for the mandatories,” acknowledged Joyce. “Then after I regain the belt and my mandatory ranking, it will be my turn. That’s what makes the rematch so important. I needed it to get back in place to become heavyweight champion of the world.”
Ultimately, Joyce admitted in an interview with Sky Sports that he underestimated Zhang in the original April encounter but stated that he is more motivated to face Zhang in the opposing corner this time.
“If you look at my previous fights, each fight I change a little bit depending on the opponent. I maybe underestimated Zhang a little bit, thought I would get him out of there in the later rounds,” Joyce explained.
“Obviously, he was very fast and accurate with the left [back] hand and the counter shots. But this time, it’s going to be different because I’m more motivated and switched on than ever.”