WBO interim heavyweight champion Joe Joyce (15-0, 14 KOs) says he’s got to be careful with the punching power of his opponent Zhilei Zhang (24-1, 19 KOs) early on this Saturday night for their headliner at the Copper Box Arena in London. The Joyce vs. Zhang card will be shown on ESPN+ at 2:00 ET.
Most of the big 6’6″ Zhang’s career knockouts have come in the early rounds, where he’s at his best, and he could clip Joyce if he catches him early.
Joyce will likely play it cautiously in the first three or four rounds, and make sure he doesn’t give the two-time Chinese Olympian Zhang too many opportunities to land his power shots. In the second half of the fight, Joyce will try and take over with his pressure style of fighting and see if he can wear Zhang down.
“I watched that fight and thought Zhang looked good. He knocked him down early and got back up. He put everything in there, and I thought he should have got the decision, but he didn’t,” said Joe Joyce to talkSPORT Boxing about Zhilei Zhang’s controversial loss to Filip Hrgovic last August in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“You’re known for your engine, ‘The Juggernaut,’ like a wrecking machine, and you get stronger as the fight goes on. What you learned from the Filip Hrgovic fight is Zhilei Zhang started really well, very heavy-handed and dangerous early on. As the fight wore on, he seemed to tire a little bit. Do you think that’s where your strengths will come into play?” said Spencer Oliver to Joyce.
“Yeah, because I won’t be tiring. I’ll be piling on the pressure,” said Joyce. “Those first couple of rounds will be risky because the big Zhilei Zhang has a big right hand and a left hand, so I’ll have to watch out for that.”
“He’s a dangerous guy with those straight right hands and left hooks,” said Oliver.
“I’ll beat Zhilei Zhang, and let’s make some big fights,” said Joyce. “In boxing, it’s not clear. I’m hopeful. I’ll just beat the people in front of me, and my team and promoter will get these big fights made.
“In heavyweight boxing, there’s so much money involved, egos and attitudes. ‘I want this split; I want that split.’ So it’s complicated. I want to bring it back to the old days,” said Joyce.