Joe Joyce (15-1) suffered the maiden defeat of his professional boxing career, succumbing to defeat in six rounds against fellow unbeaten heavyweight contender Zhieli Zhang (25-1-1) at the Copper Box Arena, London. The loss for Joyce also saw the Briton lose his mandatory challenger status to face unified world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
The contest against Zhang was halted by the ringside doctor after the referee, Howard Foster, was concerned about the damage Joyce had sustained around his right eye following several hard-hitting lefts from the Chinese heavyweight contender. However, Joyce was gracious in defeat immediately post-fight and credited Zhang for his success against him.
“I’m just disappointed with my performance. The [left] hand kept hitting me, and I couldn’t get out of the way. So, respect to Zhilei Zhang. It was a good fight, but I think I could have done better.
“I haven’t fought a southpaw for so long. Credit to him because he’s a good fighter. I gave it my all, and I think I can do better. It’s just disappointing. I expected to win like I normally do.”
George Warren of Queensberry Promotions did confirm that there is a rematch clause for a rematch between Joyce and Zhang if the Briton wishes to activate that contractual option for himself. When speaking to BBC Sport, Joyce did admit that he may choose to take an interim bout before the option to rematch Zhang.
“We’re going to discuss it,” Joyce said to BBC Sport. “I could have one in between. I’m just going to decide. I’m going to have some time off and reflect and watch the tape back and see where I went wrong.”
Joyce would also continue to add that he believes that his eye is just swollen and insisted that he could still see from the damaged eye.
"I can still see through [the eye], I think it's just bruised. It's a formality to go to the hospital now to check it's not fractured or anything. It looks like I've got a terminator eye now. It's unfortunate but I'll be back. I thought I was doing well in there.