Joe Joyce has recently opened up on his sparring stories with his heavyweight counterpart, Anthony Joshua, ahead of his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk on August 20.
Both Joyce and Joshua were a product of GB Boxing, with the highlight for each being their Olympic success. ‘AJ’ left London 2012 with a gold medal whilst ‘The Juggernaut’ earnt himself a silver at Rio 2016, however that looks soon to be upgraded to a gold due to controversies concerning the judging.
In recent times, Joshua’s transition from a brawler to a boxer has left fans wanting more from the 32-year-old. The Watford heavyweight was heavily criticised for his approach in his first bout with Usyk, looking to outbox one of the best current active boxers.
During an interview with Sky Sports, Joyce explained how he gradually noticed the transition from Joshua, as well as how he thinks he could’ve beat the current unified heavyweight champion of the world.
“When we were on the GB squad, I always used to like going toe to toe with him, that used to be fun. But then all of a sudden, he was kind of a bit more [on the] back foot.”
“[Against Usyk] he seemed very tidy in his technique and his footwork and everything. But he was trying to outbox Usyk. Maybe it was Usyk that was keeping him away. But he seemed very clinical. He could have roughed him up a bit more inside and took a few chances with pot shots.”
“There was a stage especially early where we were going toe to toe all the time. Then it got to a point, kind of when he turned pro, he started to be a bit more on the back foot and not really willing to engage.”
Many pinpoint the Wladimir Klitschko fight to the moment the style of the former two-time heavy champion had changed, with Joshua touching the canvas for the first time in his career. Yet others believe it was his first loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. that triggered this new defensive style of the Brit.
Joyce spoke on both of these fights, revealing on how he thinks Usyk used these bouts to help him prepare for Joshua.
“Especially with the Ruiz Jr rematch, he probably went into that defensive on the back foot [mode].”
“[He] was kind of scared to engage. I guess rightly so because he must have seen the shadow of Ruiz putting him down. Even [Wladimir] Klitschko put him down and he was in trouble for a whole round when they fought. Klitschko, if he’d been more an offensive fighter, he could have taken him out there.”
“Usyk already knew what to do in the first fight, he went straight to work. So, this fight he’s already beaten him. So, he knows exactly what to do again. He’s probably three of four moves ahead of him. So it’s a tough one”
Despite all of this, Joyce is hoping to relive those sparring stories with Joshua, but this time on a bigger stage with world honours on the line.
“Off the London Olympics the boxing scene has exploded, and he’s been at the forefront of it and he’s made boxing exciting. That’s a great fight if he can beat Usyk this time.”
Joyce will also have to come through his next test of his development, when he faces Joseph Parker on September 24.