With just hours to go until Joe Joyce and Zhang face off for a second time, Tony Bellew has made his final prediction and reckons one fighter’s ‘punch resistance has gone.’
If Joyce is to keep his world title hopes alive, he will need to to perform significantly better in the rematch with Zhang than he did first time around in April.
That night saw him take sustained punishment from the Chinese fighter’s solid southpaw jabs to the point where his eye closed and the referee had to stop the fight.
Joyce has said he was too light for the fight, but also that he struggled to see from early on because of a closing eye. If he can reverse the result, he regains the interim WBO title and will be next on the list to face Oleksander Usyk for full world honours soon.
Speaking via bettingsites.co.uk, Bellew claimed Joyce is one of the ‘most durable’ heavyweights he has seen since Oliver McCall.
“I’ve never seen a heavyweight take shots like him. But against Zhilei Zhang last time out that was the first time I’ve even seen him react off a punch to the head. He reacted in the second round from a big, straight left to the head.”
The former cruiserweight champion then shared rumours he heard about Joyce’s being ‘unprepared’ and having the wrong mindset in the lead-up to the first fight.
“I’ve heard a few rumours about how he wasn’t that well prepared and thought he would walk through [Zhang] in that first fight. I’m told he’s addressed it all in this camp. I’m not making any excuses for him, as I say Joe Joyce isn’t my fighter. I wish him well.”
Ultimately though, Bellew believes that a key component of Joyce’s game – namely his punch resistance – is away.
“I hope he does it but if that punch resistance has gone, he’s finished.”
“[Zhang] turned the clocks back and just couldn’t miss him with that left hand all night long. Joe was buckling and I think he’s going to have to change an awful lot if he’s going to win this rematch, not just one thing. Durability is his greatest strength but his work-rate, fitness and athleticism are excellent too. I hope Joe can do it but I think his punch resistance has gone.”