Joe Joyce vs. Bermane Stiverne on Feb.23 in London, UK
By Trevor McIntyre: Joe Joyce (7-0, 7 KOs) will be taking on former WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne (25-3-1, 21 KOs) in a 10 round fight on the undercard of James DeGale vs. Chris Eubank Jr. on February 23 at the O2 Arena in London, England. The Joyce vs. Stiverne fight will be shown LIVE on ITV Box Office. This fight will give Joyce a chance to show the boxing world what he can do against a former heavyweight world champion.
It’s been four years since Stiverne, 6’2″, lost his WBC heavyweight title to Deontay Wilder, but that wasn’t that long ago. Stiverne can obviously still punch, and he just needs to be in good shape for him to show off the talent that led him to a world title in 2015.
Also on the card is former IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby facing Omar Douglas. It’s a good fight for Selby, who is trying to come back from his loss to Josh Warrington.
Stiverne doesn’t think much of Joyce, a fighter with just seven pro fights under his belt, taking him on without the experience needed for him to have a chance of winning. Stiverne says he immediately accepted the Joyce fight when it was offered to him by his promoter Don King. Stiverne sees this fight as a path to a title shot against IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) in the near future.
This is a stiff test for a fighter like Joyce, who will be fighting for the eighth time since turning pro in 2017 after losing a controversial decision to France’s Tony Yoka in the finals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Joyce ended up winning a silver medal in that Olympics, but he arguably deserved the gold.
“Seven fights and he wants to box me? For me it is a dream come true, but for Joyce it will be a nightmare,” Stiverne said. “I will knock out Joe Joyce and step over him to KO Anthony Joshua.”
Joyce is promoted by former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who is now the CEO of RingStar Promotions. If Stiverne does knockout Joyce on February 23, it’s highly unlikely that Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn will agree to a fight between him and Joshua. Stiverne would need to beat a lot more fighters than Joyce for him to get a crack at Joshua. There are fighters that have never lost, and they still haven’t gotten a shot against the Hearn promoted Joshua. Stiverne needs to treat the Joyce fight as his Super Bowl, and not think beyond that about him getting a title shot against Joshua, since that’s very unlikely to happen. In an ideal situation, Stiverne could potentially get a title shot against Joshua in three or four years if he defeats Joyce and everyone that Schaefer puts in front of him. Stiverne will need to be a lot busier than he’s been in the last four years for him to have a shot at getting a fight with Joshua. If Stiverne beats Joyce on February 23, and then sits out of the ring for 15 months without fighting, he’s going to lose the top 15 ranking that he gets from that fight. In other words, Stiverne will be back to square one when he does eventually return to the ring.
Although the 40-year-old Stiverne will have been out of the ring for 15 months by the time he faces the 33-year-old Joyce on February 23, he still remains a very live opponent, and easily the best fighter that he’ll have fought up to this date. An out of shape and ring rusty Stiverne was knocked out in the first round in his last fight by World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in November 2017.
Stiverne is a better fighter than what he showed against Wilder on that night. Stiverne had been out of the ring for two years, and he was not in the best condition. Stiverne had a lot of visible fat on him, and he didn’t appear near ready to be fighting a guy of Wilder’s class in that fight. Stiverne should have have had two or three tune-up fights before facing Wilder, but unfortunately for him, he went into the contest after 2 solid years of inactivity. Stiverne will have a similar problem when he faces the 6’6″ Joyce on February 23. Stiverne has already been out of the ring for 14 months without fighting. That time out of the ring likely won’t have helped him prepare for a fight against a guy like Joyce.
“He is a former World Champion that has gone 12 rounds with Deontay Wilder and will give me a real challenge, but my engine and my power will be too much for him, a fact he should be aware of,” Joyce said.
Joyce and Stiverne have no love lost, as the two had a sparring session in that past, and there was trash talking afterwards. The two heavyweights can now show the boxing fans who the better fighter is. Joyce believes that he’s going to have too much power, and too good of a high pressure style for Stiverne to deal with. It still could be an interesting fight if the heavy-handed Stiverne is able to land his shots. The 2014 version of Stiverne that knocked out Chris Arreola would give Joyce a lot of problems. That was a long time ago though, and it could be that Stiverne is not going to be able to fight anywhere close to the same level as he did five years ago when he was a little younger at 35. Even that age is pretty old for a lot of fighters. Stivene took a lot of punishment in his first fight against Deontay Wilder in 2015, and he was quickly sparked out in one round by him in their rematch in 2017.
Stiverne’s career has fizzled out since his two victories over Chris Arreola in 2014. Stiverne has fought only three times in the last five years since those wins, losing to Wilder twice, and struggling to beat journeyman Derric Rossy. The obvious to look at in analyzing why Stiverne’s career has failed to keep the momentum that it previously had is the inactivity. It’s hard for a fighter to stay at the top of their given weight class when they’re not fighting.
In Stiverne’s case, he’d not been fighting often enough with his career to get the most out of it as far back as 2012. He was fighting once a year back then. After Stiverne won the World Boxing Council heavyweight title in stopping Arreola in their rematch in May 2014, he then lost his WBC title eight months later in losing to Wilder by a 12 round decision in January 2015. For all intents and purposes, Stiverne’s career went downhill with him taking 10 months off before returning to the ring to defeat Derric Rossy by a harder than expected 10 round unanimous decision in November 2015. Two years later, Stiverne fought Wilder in a rematch and was knocked out in the first round in November 2017. Whose fault it was that Stiverne was kept out of the ring for such a long period is unclear. With the kind of inactivity that Stivene has been dealing with, it would be almost impossible for any heavyweight in the division to remain sharp, be it Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury.