Joe Joyce has the option of a rematch with Zhilei Zhang after suffering the first loss of his career in London this weekend.
The tactics of walking through punches to land his own are what’s made Joyce’s relatively short pro career so watchable, but, against Zhang, a lack of head movement and ill-preparation for a southpaw was his downfall.
‘Big Bang’s left hand couldn’t miss, and it was cruelly targeted at the Londoner’s ever-swelling eye. Referee Howard Foster, after advice from the ringside physician, waved the fight off in the sixth.
In the ring to fulfil his media obligations after his first professional defeat – which is commendable in itself – Joyce was humble and even, most will say wrongly, apologetic. He spoke of his disappointment to talkSPORT.
“Just getting hit by that left hand, over and over. I couldn’t get away from it. He’s quick, strong, powerful and experienced. Credit to him and his team for getting the win. When you take risks, sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”
“I’m just disappointed, but I’ll be back. It’s not the end of my journey. If I decide to rematch him next, or whenever, I’ll be back anyway.”
“Sorry to my fans and friends and family. I thought I’d get the win here.”
Joyce was realistic and gracious in defeat, and he approached the thought of a rematch in the same vein. Asked if he’d be taking it, he was wary.
“Yeah, possibly. I’ll discuss with my team, see what my options are. It doesn’t look good – taking the rematches recently they seem to [go the same way], so maybe I’ll take another one in the meantime.”
Promoter George Warren confirmed to BT Sport that they had a rematch clause and options to work with Zhang moving forward regardless.
He’s now mandatory for a shot at Oleksandr Usyk’s WBO title, but behind both Daniel Dubois (WBA) and Filip Hrgovic (IBF) in the queue. His sights are set on the division’s other champion, though, calling for a fight in China against Tyson Fury.