The old maxim that one punch can change everything hovers menacingly over tonight’s heavyweight confrontation between Joe Joyce and Michael Wallisch at the BT Sport studios in Stratford, London.
The 34-year-old Joyce knows that there is no margin for error against Wallisch. With a showdown looming against Daniel Dubois in October at the O2 Arena, one false move, one big punch, or one torn shoulder muscle could wreck the best-laid plans of the 6’6” ‘Juggernaut’.
In the lead-up to this contest, promoter Frank Warren has invoked the ghosts of warm-up fights past, referring to disastrous losses by Danny McAlinden against Morris Jackson in 1973 and Paul ‘Scrap Iron’ Ryan against Jon Thaxton in 1996, which ensured higher profile clashes that were meant to follow bit the dust.
“I hate these sort of fights,” Warren told Boxing Social. “I look back over the years and think about some big fights that were built up and then didn’t happen.
“The problem is, in a warm-up fight, a boxer’s mind is often on other things. They’re not always focused on the task in front of them.”
There seems little doubt, however, that Joyce will be anything other than fully focused for Saturday’s contest. “I’m not overlooking Wallisch at all,” he told Boxing Social this week. “It’s a good chance to get back in there and show everyone what I’m made of. I’ve got respect for him and we’re going to have a good fight.”
The 2016 Olympic silver medallist made a quickfire start to his pro career after turning over, but his progress has stalled frustratingly in the last 12 months, with a contest against Marco Huck being cancelled in January and proposed dates for the Dubois contest in April and early July biting the dust due to the Coronavirus.
Adding to the uncertainty surrounding the Putney man has been the carousel of trainers who have guided him thus far – spells with Ismael Salas (twice), Abel Sanchez, Adam Booth and now Steve Broughton (with latest coach Salas remaining based in America) have led some to speculate that his career is treading water and lacks direction.
The 34-year-old Wallisch has certainly talked up his chances, declaring: “Joe Joyce is a solid boxer. He was a good amateur, but I think Dubois is already in his head. When I win this fight, I’ll fight Dubois in October.”
Physically the two men match up well – they are more or less the same height and the same age – but pedigree, principally his extensive amateur success, overwhelmingly favours Joyce. At yesterday’s weigh-in, Joyce scaled a career heaviest 270lbs while Wallisch weighed 261lbs.
Recent form is also very much with the Briton, who has an unbeaten 10-0 (9 KOs) record with some decent names on it, while Wallisch (20-3, 13 KOs) has lost three of his last four, admittedly against useful operators in Christian Hammer, Efe Ajagba and Tony Yoka, although all three reverses worryingly came via stoppage.
To win, Wallisch will most likely have to land heavy and land early. Joyce is certainly hittable, but whether the German has the firepower to knock him down and keep him down is doubtful. Look for Joyce to make a statement in his first fight since July last year by winning via somewhere around the five or six–round mark.
Elsewhere on the undercard, there are plenty of interesting prospects in action. Aggressive middleweight banger Denzel Bentley (12-0, 10 KOs) should provide plenty of excitement in his clash with Preston’s Mick Hall (15-2, 2 KOs).
“I need to back what I’ve been saying about myself,” the heavy-handed and confident south Londoner told Boxing Social this week. “I do feel like I’m at British level but without the names to go with it on my resume, that doesn’t mean anything.”
Warren certainly rates Bentley. “He can whack. He’s gone a bit under the radar but the last couple of fights he’s come into his own. I think he’s got a good chance of gong places. He fancies his chances against everybody, that’s for sure.”
Banstead-based featherweight Louie Lynn (6-0, 5 KOs) is also in action against Monty Ogilvie (9-1, 1 KO). Lynn, who was an excellent amateur and is based in Banstead, told Boxing Social: “It’s so good to be back. I’m expecting a good fight. The better my opponents are the better I fight. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity. I’ve got to make sure I do the business and look good.”
However, it is the fight between Chris Bourke and Ramez Mahmood, which just might steal Saturday’s show. The duo clash for the Southern Area 122lbs title and Mahmood, who has previously won a Southern Area title at 126lbs, admitted to Boxing Social that the contest “could be potentially life changing if I go in and do what I need to do”.
Southpaw Bourke, from Streatham, south London, boxed for England as an amateur, and has good power, with five KOs in seven starts, including a memorable one-shot KO of Louis Norman back in December.
Bourke will start as the favourite, but Mahmood is well schooled and has a good work rate and will fancy his chances of springing a potential upset victory. British and Commonwealth champion Brad Foster could lie in wait for the victor.
The final fight on the card was due to be a welterweight showdown between Ekow Essuman (13-0, 5 KOs) and Cedrick Peynaud (8-7-3, 4 KOs), who famously twice floored Conor Benn in 2017 before losing a contentious points decision.
Peynaud unfortunately had to withdraw through injury though, and the fifth and final slot on the card will now be filled by seven-time national amateur champion Henry Turner from Buckinghamshire (2-0, O KOs), who faces Chris Adaway (10-67-4, 1 KO) at super-lightweight.
Main image: Queensberry Promotions.