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In-depth with 2016 Olympian, Davey Oliver Joyce


By Ian Aldous: Over the years, Ireland has produced some of the finest amateur boxers in Europe and their impressive medal haul at European championships is testament to that fact. Davey Oliver Joyce (11-1) is one of those who became European champion before turning professional in 2017 after spending almost twenty years boxing as an amateur, culminating in him reaching the last 16 of the 2016 Rio Olympics. On February 1st, ‘The Punisher’ looks to add the WBO European super-bantamweight title to his collection when he faces former IBF bantamweight World champion, Lee Haskins at the Ulster Hall in Belfast, live on ESPN+ in the U.S. and IFLTV in the UK.

The thirty-two year old is immeasurably confident of nothing less than a victory on February 1st. “I can’t wait,” he told me. “Lee has been a World champion in the past. I won’t say he’s gone over the hill, but he’s not the same boxer he was four or five years ago. With my style and the way I’m sparring in the gym right now, I believe I will beat him and maybe stop him.”

This bout will be Joyce’s maiden at 122lbs and it comes after his first professional loss in October against Leigh Wood during MTK’s Golden Contract tournament. Joyce was fancied by many to win the entire tournament but succumbed to Wood who surprisingly stopped the amateur standout. “Me and my coach, Pete Taylor and my nutritionist, we’ve made the decision, after the last fight with Leigh Wood, where I made weight too easy and he was just too big, too strong, we decided to go to super-bantam and I’m bang on weight,” Joyce explained. “My weight is right on point; where we need to be. You set a target each couple of weeks and we met it at the minute, so we’re going on the right track.”

The MTK-managed fighter joined the pro ranks in the 135lbs division, but will now be competing 13lbs lighter. It’s taken a couple of years, but Joyce believes he’s found the correct weight to be competing at. “I believe at super-bantam, I’ll be stronger,” he said. “I can use my style a lot more, where at featherweight I didn’t get a chance to use it because the guys are bigger and stronger and able to hold me off. Leigh Wood – you’ve got to give him credit, he boxed a really good fight that night. He was just physically too strong for me.”

Even prior to the fight with Wood, the Irishman and his team were concerned they were fighting at too high of a weight-class. “I was having breakfast at my last weigh-in at York Hall in England. While I was having breakfast with my nutritionist, Leigh Wood and a few of the lads were heading out of the hotel to go to the York Hall gym to train to lose the last kilo. Me and my nutritionist said: ‘we’ve got to consider moving down in weight, this is not right’.”

But now, the man who won over twenty Irish titles, including his first at twelve years-old, is in a good place and embracing his workload. “Everything is going well in camp at the minute and I’m enjoying it. We’ve got Tyrone McCullagh (14-0 featherweight) in camp with us now, he’s joined the team. His style of fighting suits me because when I’m sparing someone like that for six or seven weeks – Lee Haskins is nothing to me.”

One man that Joyce holds multiple wins over as an amateur is former two-weight world champion, Carl Frampton. Having those wins gives Joyce the belief that he too can scale the summit of the professional game. “I was sparring him there a couple of years ago and I’ve got to give Carl all the credit in the World. He’s an unbelievable fighter. I sparred him a couple of years ago when he was with the McGuigans and I was really comfortable. I enjoyed my sparring with him and I know I can box to that level, same way that I did as an amateur for years at Worlds, Europeans and Olympics. I know I’m at the top level and I’m putting the work in in the gym and I know I can mix with these guys.”

He even had the honour of challenging himself against one of the greatest fighters to ever have laced up a pair of gloves. Two-time Olympic champion and three-weight World champion as a pro, Vasyl Lomachenko shared a ring with Joyce eleven years ago. “In 2008, I boxed that guy in the European championships. If I didn’t believe in myself: I wouldn’t get in with these guys.”

Earlier this year, Joyce travelled to England to spend some time sparring with fellow Olympian, Michael Conlan. The two decorated amateurs have known each other for a very long time and both are more than capable of reaching the top of the sport. “I’ve known Michael ever since he came onto the amateur team and his father and brother. I know them all really, really well,” he said. “Michael rang me earlier this year to ask me to come to England to do a bit of sparring with him. I went for three weeks and I enjoyed it. Sparring with him and watching the way him and Adam Booth communicate with each other in the gym – it was the same relationship me and Pete Taylor have. There was advice that Adam would give me before and after sparring. I was delighted and Mick was delighted that I came over and he got really good quality sparring for three weeks.”

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Yet another successful Irish amateur teammate of Joyce’s is Paddy Barnes. Barnes is a two-time Olympic medallist and competed at three different Olympic Games. A glittering amateur career doesn’t always guarantee glory in the paid ranks though. Barnes retired recently after compiling a 6-3 record as a pro. “You can be so successful as an amateur and you might never make it as a professional,” Joyce pondered. “Paddy was so successful as an amateur – one of the top amateur boxers in the World, but it just didn’t work out for him as a pro. He’s the same age as me. He was a quality fighter as an amateur. He threw over 300-400 punches a fight – it was crazy. It wasn’t that it was power in the punches; it was the volume of the punches. It didn’t work for him as a professional which is a pity, but he will always go down as a standout and one of the best amateur fighters Ireland has ever produced.”

Joyce is a smart boxer and takes nothing for granted. With his fresh start at 122lbs just over a month away, expect no stone to be unturned in his quest for World honours. “I’m working my arse off every day in the gym. The only day I had off was Christmas day. I’ve just come from the gym right now. That was the first of two sessions today. You’re going to see a proper Davey Oliver at super-bantam. I’m going to be stronger. I’m more determined and focused to get back to winning ways (and) win that European title again to get me back up to where I want to be. I’m not going to take anything for granted against Lee. I think he’s a good fighter, but you’re gonna see a better Davey Oliver than you’ve seen in the last three years.”

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