Joe Joyce vs Zhilei Zhang in London on April 15th LIVE on BT Sport

02/02/2023 - By Rob Smith - Comments

Joe ‘The Juggernaut’ Joyce (15-0-0, 14 KO’s) faces the big puncher Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KO’s) in a title defense of his interim WBO heavyweight title at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday, 15 April, live on BT Sport.

#12 WBO Zhang is still getting the opportunity to fight Joyce for his interim belt despite having lost his last contest to Filip Hrgovic by a 12 round unanimous decision last August, albeit a controversial defeat.

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The two-time Olympian Zhang fought well, and many boxing fans saw him as the clear winner afterward. Ideally, Hrgovic should have given Zhang a rematch, but it didn’t happen.

Now Zhang is taking on Joyce to put himself in a position to fight the winner of the Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk fight. At 39, this might be Zhang’s last chance to earn a title shot.

If Zhang loses to Joyce, it’s not realistic for hope to work his way into position for a title shot before he ages out.  Zhang can still make money by hanging around the heavyweight division the way Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora have done.

Those two have made millions just by hanging around, suffering losses, but then picking up wins against lesser opposition to stay relevant.

Fury has been vocal about wanting to fight Joyce after he faces Usyk in March or April. If Zhang defeats Joyce, Fury must change his plans and go in that direction if he wants to keep the WBO belt.

The 2016 Olympic silver medalist Joyce will be taking on yet another big puncher since he turned professional in 2017. In the last five years, Joyce has beaten this murderer’s row of power punchers:

  • Joseph Parker
  • Daniel Dubois
  • Alexander Ustinov
  • Bermane Stiverne
  • Joe Hanks
  • Carlos Takam
  • Iago Kiladze
  • Bryant Jennings

If Joyce beats Zhang, he’ll be fighting for the WBO belt next unless it’s vacated by the Fury-Usyk winner, in which case he’ll likely be elevated to full champion by the World Boxing Organization.

That’s not how Joyce wants to become a champion, but he could scare away Fury or Usyk, who can make more money fighting Anthony Joshua with far less risk involved.

Some could argue that Joyce has faced better overall competition during his short professional career than Tyson Fury.

That might be hard to believe, but when you look at Fury’s resume, the only two names that stand out are Deontay Wilder and Wladimir Klitschko.