Wilder-Joyce: The crossroads fight the heavyweight division didn’t know it needed

Deontay Wilder needs to face Joe Joyce next.

It would answer the questions asked of both fighters after they both suffered damaging losses in 2023. 

Joe Joyce was stopped twice by Zhilei Zhang. Before that fight, Joyce nicknamed ‘The Juggernaut’ was thought to be unstoppable. He halted Joseph Parker, who went on to beat Wilder a few days ago. The question was asked, could anyone stop the pressure of Joyce?

In one fight against Zhang, that question was answered. As a consequence, it also felt Joyce thought he was no longer indestructible. Joyce went from a top-five heavyweight to afterthought, even more so after his one-sided and dramatic third-round knockout loss to Zhang in their rematch. 

Joyce, aged 38, is entering 2024 as a mortal man, without that cloak of invincibility. 

Wilder, on the other hand, has been plagued by inactivity. His three fights with Tyson Fury are part of modern heavyweight folklore. In fact, they shared one of the greatest heavyweight trilogies ever. Yet, Wilder went 0-2-1 in that series of fights, twice getting stopped by Fury in the final two bouts. 

Since his last loss to Fury, Wilder fought less than one round against Robert Helenius, stopping the big Scandinavian after 2-57 of the first round. Wilder, the man who defies logic with his awkward style and unbelievable power, no longer seems to have the fire in his eyes. 

On December 23, though, the power didn’t land. Wilder’s power didn’t save him as it has done in the past when he was comprehensively outpointed by Joseph Parker. The loss might have cost Wilder a mega-payday against Anthony Joshua as well. Wilder didn’t throw enough punches and didn’t land much of anything. Beyond that, he showed no urgency despite losing almost all of the rounds. Wilder didn’t look like the same fighter.

At 38-years-old, it is likely that Wilder’s best days are behind him. Added to that, Wilder referenced using ayahuasca, a psychedelic drug, to find peace in his life. Life choices are one thing, but Wilder seems to be giving off the vibe of someone who no longer prioritizes boxing, which often is the prelude to a retired fighter.

A fight between Wilder and Joyce would tell us one thing, who still has it? 

Does Joyce still have the ability to come forward and take big shots but not breakdown? Or does Wilder still have the ability to land one big punch that produces a highlight-reel knockout? Given the styles, the fight seemingly couldn’t be bad, right?

It seems so simple. They are the same age. They have limitations. Yet, those limitations make them so fun to watch and could make for a seriously-appealing heavyweight showdown.