Joe Joyce is days away from the toughest fight of his career – a rematch with Zhilei Zhang in London just five months on from being stopped in the sixth round of their first contest.
Zhang’s southpaw stance bamboozled ‘The Juggernaut’ in April, and a punishing left hand left his eye so swollen that the ringside doctor and referee convened to stop the bout.
With this second crack at ‘Big Bang’, Joyce has the opportunity to regain his WBO Interim title – the ticket to a shot at unified heavyweight champion, Oleksandr Usyk, in the near future.
The division’s other champion, Tyson Fury, told Queensberry he had a feeling all along that his countryman would get beat the first time out.
“He got beat like I thought he would. Me and Shane thought that Zhang would beat him. I thought that Joe would have to get up the floor a couple of times and claw a win back maybe, if he took him a few rounds. Obviously he didn’t, and he got beat.”
Fury believes Joyce’s second mistake was not taking up his offer for sparring ahead of the rematch.
“I told Joe, live on the internet, that if you come to Morecambe Bay I’ll almost guarantee you a win over Zhang. But he didn’t, he went to Vegas. You can’t help somebody who don’t want to be helped. It is what it is.”
Finally, he called it close but said one must favour Zhang to repeat the result.
“Tough fight again. 50/50. But you’d have to favour the champion, because one he’s beat him already, knocked him out, and two his confidence will be high knowing he can win. Before he wasn’t sure. Now he knows.”
“You have to favour the Chinese man, purely on the fact he’s already beat him once, and if [Joyce] goes down the same road he’ll beat him again.”
Zhang and Joyce run it back this coming Saturday at the OVO Arena, Wembley. UK fans can tune in via TNT Sports for what can’t be anything other than a heavyweight slugfest.