Joe Joyce: "I'm coming to take back what's mine' ahead of Zhang rematch encounter

Heavyweight Joe Joyce [15-1] 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] on September 23.

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.

Current WBC title holder Tyson Fury suggested in no specific terms at last week's press event launching his October 28 date with Francis Ngannou that he is unwilling to return to the negotiating table with Usyk unless the unified champion reduces his demands. Ultimately, this could mean that the winner between Joyce and Zhang could get the opportunity to challenge for the unified crown sooner rather than later.

Joyce is aware of what victory on September 23 will mean in regards to his immediate future when speaking to Sky Sports. As it currently stands, Filip Hrgovic, mandatory within the IBF ratings, will be the next mandatory in line to challenge Usyk. However, once Hrgovic has had his opportunity, the WBO mandatory will be the next in line to challenge the winner of Usyk-Hrgovic.

"That's the plan. It's tricky. You never know what's going to happen," Joyce told Sky Sports. "I'll get there in the end. I'm confident.

"It puts me back in the mix in terms of the mandatories. The WBO gets called after the IBF, which is up next. So I can get my shot in. I'm coming to take back what's mine and take back that WBO Interim so then I can carry on my journey and become heavyweight champion of the world."

The defeat to Zhang was Joyce's first defeat as a professional, with Joyce admitting that he needs to come into the rematch with a different approach than the original April encounter.

"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."

In the encounter with Zhang, Joyce sustained an eye injury, which ultimately forced the ringside doctor to bring the contest on medical advice. Despite being pulled out, Joyce remained confident that he would force a stoppage, believing that Zhang was beginning to fade away.

"I was still in there and I was quite successful with the amount of shots I threw and landed and if it wasn't for the eye I think he was starting to tire mid-to-late rounds," Joyce said.

"He also knows that so he's been training hard as well. But I think I'm going to get it this time."