Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce collide in a heavyweight rematch in London this weekend.
Joyce suffered a career first defeat against the enormous Chinese southpaw this past April. Zhang, with help from the ringside doctor, scored a sixth round stoppage after nearly shattering Joyce’s face with a full six rounds left to fight.
Joyce and his team were understandably criticised from the lack of variation shown in the first bout, Zhang appeared a little too comfortable landing his dangerous left hand.
The fight has huge significance for the heavyweight division, the WBO interim title is on the line meaning a chance at champion Oleksandr Usyk could be not too far around the corner.
“This is a brilliant rematch, these two guys are top quality.” Promoter Frank Warren said to open today’s official press conference at The Hub in Wembley, London. “So much is at stake in this fight. You got the WBO interim title on the line, the winner of this fight will definitely be called to face whoever is holding the WBO [world] title next year, whilst the loser will probably have to wait at least 18 months to even get a snip at fighting in a voluntary defense. So, everything is on the line!
“They are two magnificent fighters with an excellent amateur pedigree, they both won silver medals at their respective Olympic Games. And I’ve said this quite a few times now, I thought both got robbed, both should have been gold medalists. They’ve done everything that has been asked of them as a pro. It doesn’t get any better than this, this is a fight where everything is on the line. There is a clear path for the winner to get an opportunity to fight for the world title. You have definitely got a seat at the top table [if you win]. That is what will happen on Saturday.”
Joyce had been in fine form until bumping into Zhang. The Putney man was on a five fight knockout streak, dispatching of the likes of Daniel Dubois, Carlos Takam and Joseph Parker. His name had been glued to the likes of Usyk and WBC champion Tyson Fury due to his impressive victories.
However, Zhang has proved to be a larger mountain to climb than expected. The first bout was incredibly one sided with Zhang in a devastating rhythm from the opening bell. Joyce will have to come up with something incredibly different to overcome the Chinese southpaw.
“I know they are going to give it their all.” Warren added.” I know it is going to be exciting and I am expecting fireworks from this one.”
A rematch clause was in the contract ahead of the first bout. Joyce and his team apparently had no hesitation in re-signing to fight Zhang.
“He activated it in, what was it, half an hour?” Warren said as he turned to Joyce sitting to his left. “They wanted it, and that says a lot about Joe and his team. Adam [Morallee] and the team have done a fantastic job, it’s been a pleasure to work with them. Of course they want to re-activate it [the rematch clause] because they know what is at stake. They know what is on the table! If you are a heavyweight, what do you want to do? You want to fight for the world title. You want to get your hands on that belt. Besides the glory and what it brings, it brings a lot of riches, a lot of wealth, it sets you up for life. They know that.”