Joe Joyce vs. Zhilei Zhang – preview for tonight @ Copper Box

By Boxing News - 04/15/2023 - Comments

By Barry Holbrook: WBO interim heavyweight champion Joe Joyce puts his mandatory position on the line tonight against the big banger Zhilei Zhang in a twelve-round headliner on ESPN+ & BT Sport from the Copper Box Arena in London, England. The event will be shown on ESPN+ at 2:00 p.m. ET.

It’s admirable that the 2016 Olympic silver medalist Joyce (15-0, 14 KOs) chose Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) as his opponent beccause he could have taken an easy fight against a soft job and then wait for his WBO mandated title shot against IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.

The 37-year-old Joyce feels that he’s the best heavyweight in thee division, so he’s not afraid to fight anyone aat this point, including champions Tyson Fury and Usyk. If the feelings were mutual, Joyce would likely be a world champion now and a far bigger name than he is now.

It’s clear that the game plan tonight is for Joyce to start slow and then ramp up the pressure against Zhang in the middle rounds to wear him down, and the force a stoppage. With Howard Foster as the referee tonight, it’s predictable that he’ll step in and wave off the fight at the first hint of trouble for either fighter.

Joyce vs. Zhang – Who wins?

“I am really looking forward to this because you just know that the big hands are going to go,” said Gareth A. Davies to talkSPORT Boxing about tonight’s heavyweight war between WBO interim champion Joe ‘The Juggernaut’ Joyce and Zhilei Zhang in London.

“Styles make fights. Zhilei Zhang, what is he, 20 stone? He’s a huge man,” said Spencer Oliver. “Joe Joyce ‘The Juggernaut,’ he’s a wrecking machine.

“These guys re going to lock horns in the center of the ring and keep punching. I would go for Joyce on points.”

“Or stoppage, I would say,” said Davies.

“Yeah, I probably think Zhilei Zhang will hear the final bell because he tires down the backstretch. We saw that against Hrgovic,  a fight that I thought he won, by the way,” said Oliver. “Filip Hrgovic, if anyone knows him, he can actually fight, and that tells you where Zhilei Zhang actually is and how good he is.”

“He’s not a lummox whatsoever at all, is he?” said Gareth about the 6’6″ Zhang. “He proved that in Saudi Arabia [against Hrgovic].”

“Absolutely,” said Spencer. “I think the odds are too wide, actually. I do believe Joe Joyce wins the fight, but I think the odds are too wide. Zhang is a decent fighter. It’s one I’m really looking forward to.”

“Me too,”  said Gareth. “Joe Joyce, for me, went under the radar until 15 months ago. He wants to deliver as a heavyweight. He’s garnered so many fans because that’s what heavyweight boxing is about, Spencer. It’s about thrills, big punchers, and knockouts.

“Absolutely, and Joe Joyce does all of that,”  said Oliver. “Coming of age, Joe Joyce is when he beat Daniel Dubois. Many people had him as a huge underdog going into that one. He showed that he has good ring craft. He’s not just this wrecking machine. He actually uses his brain really well, he waits for his attacks, and he attacks at the right time.

“That was a great fight. You see improvements, even at this age. You see improvements.  When he boxed Joseph Parker, that was a fight where I thought, ‘This could be a really difficult fight for him,’ but he had Joe Parker blowing after two rounds. He just slowly and systematically broke him down before the 11th-round knockout.

“It was a great performance, it really was. That for me was, ‘Yep, this kid has arrived at the world stage. He’s going to be tough to beat,'” said Spencer about Joyce.

How to watch Joyce vs. Zhang today?

Today’s fight between Joe Joyce and Zhilei Zhang event can be seen on ESPN+ at 2:00 p.m. ET and on BT Sport. The fight will take place at the Copper Box Arena in London, England.

“He’s been very lucky because, in his 15-0 record, that’s 15 wins and no defeats; we’ve been up close for a few of his performances,” said Gareth. “The Joseph Parker fight was a very exciting bout because we know Parker, the former WBO heavyweight champion knows his way around the ring. He went twelve rounds with Anthony Joshua.

“One of the things about Joe Joyce for me is if he wins this, he’s in line to fight Oleksandr Usyk at some time this year. They met in the amateur, of course, so that’s thrilling. What I love about Joe is he has a degree in fine arts, and he’s done these brilliant poster paintings that he loves to do.

“I’ve been urging him to have an exhibition during fight week. He has this incredible documentary out with his mother, who is very partially sighted. Zhang barely speaks any English, for a start. Joe barely speaks any English himself. He’s barely got anything to say.

“A silent stare-off, and the bell will ring and it’ll be mayhem in there,” said Gareth about Joyce.

YouTube video