'Throwback' Joyce invokes the greats of the past

When Joe Joyce fights Zhilei Zhang at London’s Copper Box Arena on Saturday he will, according to his promoter, be taking his latest step in the traditions of the heavyweight division.

The fight between the two Olympic silver medallists is, particularly by the standards of 2023 – when Tommy Fury’s fight with Jake Paul has attracted more attention than any other, and when Misfits Boxing threatens to thrive – a fight from an era gone by. 

That both fighters will resist the temptation to indulge in the same rhetoric favoured by so many of their rivals, and instead prioritise trading from the centre of the ring, is one demonstration of that. When like Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Ray Mercer and Lennox Lewis they fight a fellow Olympic medallist, they will also ultimately be providing another.

The inability of Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk to agree terms to fight provides further cause to relish the priorities of Joyce and Zhang, and George Warren, of the 37-year-old Joyce’s promoters Queensberry Promotions, told ProBox TV: “Do you need to see fake beef between these guys to sell this fight? No you don’t. It’s a legitimate fight.

“This is a no-nonsense, good, boxing fight, with two legitimate heavyweight contenders. Joe’s, rightfully, the favourite – I expect him to win. I expect him to probably have to deal with a couple of difficult times during the fight, in the manner and style in which Joe fights. That’s what we’re used to seeing. 

“Joe’s a throwback. He wants big fights. The better challenge that he has, the better performance. 

“Boxing fans know that this is a legitimate, solid heavyweight fight. There’s no requirement on us to compensate for what’s being delivered in the ring. It’s a quality heavyweight match. You’re almost nailed on to see a few knockdowns, and probably a big stoppage.”

Queensberry also promotes Tyson Fury, who Joyce hopes to fight later this year, and Daniel Dubois, who Joyce has already beaten, and Frank Warren said: “They’re both silver medallists in the Olympics. Although I thought Joe got robbed and should have got the gold medal, and [the 39-year-old Zhang’s] last fight, everybody’s been raving about this Filip Hrgovic to me for a long, long time, and I thought he won that fight.

“I thought he made Hrgovic look very, very ordinary.

“The fight will do the talking. [But] I’ve got to get [Joyce] over to the mainstream, and he needs a lot of promoting to do that. No one’s been banging the drum for him.”