China’s Zhilei Zhang left nothing to chance last night against Joe Joyce in the UK – and that may have been just as well.
The man known as ‘Big Bang’ travelled to London to challenge for Joyce’s WBO Interim title, and he did much more than provide the solid southpaw test that he was supposed to.
In short, his left hand could not miss. It was straight, solid and as accurate as they come. The result was an incredible swelling on Joyce’s right eye that was a ticking time bomb in terms of a stoppage, and his performance wasn’t suggesting that he could do anything to turn the tide.
Sure enough, referee Howard Foster had the ringside doctor take a look twice in round sixth, and waved it off to protect Joyce, who could no longer see that lethal left coming. ‘The Juggernaut’ was gracious and humble in his first defeat as a pro, and Zhang moved to 25-1-1 with 20 KOs.
It was said by the broadcast team that, at the time of the stoppage, one judge had Joyce up by a round after five – a revelation branded ‘disgraceful’ by boxing fans.
Whilst somewhat subjective, scorers online argued that only one round – possibly two – could be given to the home fighter, and that Zhang was never in trouble while he hurt and broke down a lethargic Joyce.
The scoring will be especially frustrating for Zhang, whose contentious loss to Filip Hrgovic is still raw. Most fans and pundits felt he beat the Croatian last year, and that the IBF mandatory title shot was cruelly taken from him by the ringside judges.
It appears that there was a chance of history repeating itself last night in London had the man from China not forced the referee to call a halt to the contest.
Whilst Queensberry and Joyce have a rematch clause available, it’s unclear whether Joyce will opt for it. For his part, and at 39-years-old, Zhang wants a title shot. Despite now being mandatory for Oleksandr Usyk’s WBO belt, he called out Tyson Fury for a fight in China.