Joe Joyce Faces Tough Chinese Challenge
by Steve Ashfield | by Steve Ashfield
Keeping His Title Hopes Alive
The British heavyweight boxing scene is immensely strong at present. Tyson Fury holds the WBC title, Daniel Dubois is the WBA Regular champion and on April 15, unbeaten Joe Joyce defends his WBO Interim title against Zhilei Zhang at the Copperbox in London, England.
Throw in Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte and plenty of up and coming talent, British heavyweight boxing hasn’t looked so good in years. However, just one punch can change all that and on Saturday, Joe Joyce needs to be on top form if he wants to keep his hopes of a showdown with Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk alive.
Winning this fight will keep Joyce in the mix for a future title shot. There's still a lot of negotiations before he can look forward to a title challenge. He's unbeaten with some good names on his record and Joyce is becoming one of those fighters that champions aren't too keen on risking their belts against.
Onwards and Upwards for Joyce?
Joyce takes on Zhilei Zhang knowing that his opponent could wreck all of his future plans. The WBO Interim heavyweight champion is someone that doesn't mind facing tough opponents. He doesn't have to do that and could just take on a journeyman in order to avoid getting ring rust.
He's won all 15 of his professional fights and was last seen in the ring last September when beating former WBO champion Joseph Parker. That was an impressive win and he was ahead on all three scorecards when stopping Parker in the 11th round. Never before had Parker been stopped and Joyce will be looking to do exactly the same against Zhang.
He may hold the WBO Interim title (and that's on the line in this fight) but a shot at a proper world title still looks something that isn't going to happen any time soon. If Joyce wins against Zhang, he's bound to call out WBC champion Tyson Fury who hasn't got a fight confirmed for the summer, There's been talk of the two meeting in the past but it's never really gotten anywhere.
Then there's the WBA, WBO and IBF champion Oleksandr Usyk but it looks as if Daniel Dubois is going to be fighting him next. A win for Dubois would be a dream result for Joyce, who has already beaten him and he'd be the betting favourite.
You can't ever rule out a fight with Anthony Joshua or Dillian Whyte either but it's a world title that he wants around his waist. That could even happen without him fighting if the WBO were to strip their inactive champion of his belt.
All of those options will go out of the window if Joyce doesn't beat Zhang. Joyce isn't getting any younger either and is 37 years old. He needs to get that title shot sooner rather than later. Joyce is known for his solid chin, he needs one because the fact is that he's not the hardest of boxers to land a punch on. All of which makes this fight against Zhang even more fascinating.
Just One Punch
Zhilei Zhang needs a win on Saturday to get back into the title picture. The 39-year-old was unbeaten in 25 professional fights before being beaten by Filip Hrgovic in his last fight. That was a controversial points decision in Jeddah last August on the Usyk v Joshua card. Many believed he won that fight and if that was the case he'd now be the mandatory IBF challenger.
It was only the second professional fight that Zhang has failed to win. He was held to a draw by Jerry Forrest two years ago, a fight he really should have won. His opponent was floored in each of the first three rounds but Zhang let the American back into the fight. Without a point deducted for holding, he would have earned a points win.
19 of his 24 professional wins have come inside the distance. There are no big names on his record though, just the usual kind of opponents you face on your way up the rankings. His punching power is undoubted though and he had Hrgovic in trouble at times during their fight.
Zhang does not look like one of those boxers who come to the UK just for a payday. He represents a major threat to the title hopes of Joe Joyce. The Chinese boxer knows full well that Joyce doesn't have the best defence in the world. Whether he can take advantage of that remains to be seen though and Joyce is the worthy favourite to win this fight.