Zhilei Zhang shook up the heavyweight division with a punishing stoppage victory over Joe Joyce.
Joyce, a heavy favourite, struggled to get to grips with Zhang’s southpaw stance, and was wobbled in the second round by an accurate ‘Big Bang.’
The Chinese heavyweight’s left hand work caused Joyce’s right eye to swell, and by the sixth round it was glued shut to the point that referee, Howard Foster, had to call a halt to the fight.
Zhang’s midway stoppage victory earns him the WBO Interim title and a mandatory shot at unified world champion, Oleksandr Usyk. There’s a rematch clause for Joyce, though, that might get in the way.
For now, he’ll take time to celebrate the heavyweight causing division’s biggest recent upset at 39-years-old. Take a look at some reactions from the boxing world below and read Boxing Social’s fight report.
Two absolute warriors who deserve all the credit in the world. Joyce will be back no questions.
Congratulations to Zhilei Zhang whose been an absolute credit to himself pic.twitter.com/E32DTD900m
— Frank Warren (@FrankWarren) April 15, 2023
Zhilei Zhang well done I am a little surprised to be honest Joe Joyce will reboot. Boxing is not a forgone conclusion the heavyweight division has a new contender
— Frank Bruno MBE 🇬🇧 (@frankbrunoboxer) April 15, 2023
Joyce was never going to be confused for a bigger version of Sweet Pea Whitaker, but tonight he appeared to finally grow old. #JoyceZhang
— Teddy Atlas (@TeddyAtlasReal) April 15, 2023
Felt absolutely ill watching that Joe way too light absolutely no zap
In his shots.
— Sam Jones (@mrsamjones88) April 15, 2023
Great performance by zhang he was excellent from the start can see his pedigree but I still believe Joyce losing a stone in weight didn’t help him in there tonight don’t know if it would’ve changed anything but I just think it was a wrong move
— Enzo Maccarinelli 🏴🇮🇹 (@theRealEnzoMac) April 15, 2023
Zhang was starting to tire just a little bit there, but there was barely a second where he didn’t look in control. There was no panic when he took a breather and joe was working away, Zhang’s awareness was fantastic.
— Barry Jones (@BarryJonesBox) April 15, 2023
Usyk promoter – Alex Krassyuk
Wow 😳 Zhilei did it convincingly 👊🏼 regrets to @JoeJoyceBoxing heavyweight upset of the year? Not yet…
Looks like we gonna see the rematch soon 🥊 @WorldBoxingOrg@usykaa
— alex.krassyuk (@AKrassyuk) April 15, 2023
Seems to me Joyce was ill prepared to deal with a southpaw. Couldn’t deal with Zhang’s left hand and he laid the price. #JoyceZhang
— Dan Rafael (@DanRafael1) April 15, 2023
Please people understand Zhang might not have been in your top 10 prior to this fight but he is a very good fighter with an extremely impressive amateur record. He's the REAL DEAL…forget the record books he has just beaten Hrgovic and Joyce back to back
— Ade Oladipo (@ade_oladipo1) April 15, 2023
Joe Joyce handled that unbelievably well post fight. Thought Zhang was very good, left hand was some weapon. Was Joe a bit too light?? Would of he got to Zhang second half of fight?? Credit to Zhang tho was a very good performance
— anthony crolla (@ant_crolla) April 15, 2023
No I didn’t honestly I got caught up in the whole joe Joyce is indestructible thing but Everyman bleeds , gutted for the big man tbh but I think he totally disregarded his defence and believed in his chin to much , but he’s human
— Frazer Clarke (@BigFrazeBoxer) April 15, 2023
Nasty eye there! Hoping Joyce is ok & speedy recovery.
Zhang was calm with his attacks & performed great.
Great call from Howard Foster 👏🏼
— Shane McGuigan (@McGuigans_Gym) April 15, 2023
Again, Joe Joyce was great to watch from a fans point of view. Tough as nails.
But If you have no defence you’re going to pick up damage. #JoyceZhang
— Dave Coldwell (@davidcoldwell) April 15, 2023
Zhang is a clever fighter. Created a comfortable environment before making Joe pay, Rinsed and repeated. Neglected the body which may have taken Joes work rate away from him down the stretch… if it got there.
Gutted for Joe, of course, he’s a Topman, He’ll be back.
— Ben Davison (@BenDavison_) April 15, 2023