Zhilei Zhang defeats Joe Joyce in 6th after doctor steps in

Zhilei Zhang pulled off a big upset with a 6th round stoppage over Joe Joyce in London tonight. Zhang looked impressive before referee Howard Foster waived the fight off upon receiving advice from the ringside doctor, halting the contest after 1 minute and 23 seconds into the round.

The Chinese Olympic silver medalist appeared to have completely closed the right eye of Joyce by the end of the fight. Zhang was landing big and precise left hands at will, while Joyce remained rigid with his movement throughout.

Joyce started slowly, whereas Zhang found a home for the left hand early - which would prove pivotal to the final outcome. The Londoner got a telling off from Ismael Salas at the end of the 1st round, it didn’t appear to help as Joyce would find himself badly hurt in the 2nd. Joyce took a spectacular right hook followed by the left hand, testing his chin to the vey limit. Remarkably, Joyce somehow recovered to end the round on the front foot.

Round 3 was arguably Joyce’s best round of the night. He was putting more combinations together and appeared to have a spring in his step after a very scary round 2. However, by round 4 most the damage was done. Zhang really started to pepper the right eye of Joyce with the jab and a series of further damaging left hands. The man from China was rhythmic by this stage, brimming with confidence and calling Joyce forward after feudal attempts to the body.

Zhang cruised through round 5 and up until the referee stepped in. Joyce just never saw the left hand coming all night, Zhang found a weak spot and exploited it perfectly. Joyce’s chin was as impressive as always, but as was Zhang’s. You could say the injury was unlucky, however the man from China had more tools than the Brit, more ideas helping him pick up a huge win on away soil.

Joyce goes back to the drawing board after his first career defeat. A big bump in the road for the 37-year-old who gave away his mandatory status to face Oleksandr Usyk with this loss. His record moves to 15-1, with 1 KO loss to add to a disappointing night.

“I’m disappointed with my performance.” Joyce said in the ring after the stoppage. “ It was a good fight but I could have done better. I haven’t fought a southpaw for so long.

“Credit to him, he’s a good fighter. It’s just disappointing I expected to win like I normally do. Zhilei Zhang is a good fighter who hits hard, he’s an awkward fighter because he’s a southpaw and he hits hard. I’d like to apologise to all my supporters. I’ll be back, my journey is not over, this is just a hurdle I tripped over.”

Zhang comes off, what many believed to be, an unjust loss to Filip Hrgovic at the end of last year. As Howard Foster called an end to proceedings, he and his team erupted into a passionate celebration. The win clearly meaning a great deal in his biggest fight to date.

“Today is mine.” Zhang said on the live broadcast via translator. “It belongs to every Chinese person who showed up. I’m 39 but I’m disciplined and I trained hard. My next step is to go for the title”

Zhang's record improves to 25-1-1 (20 KOs) and now finds himself in the position of mandatory challanger for the WBO title.

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