Joyce vs. Zhang: Can Zhilei win on April 15th?

By Rob Smith - 02/02/2023 - Comments

Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) will likely be coming in as the underdog against WBO interim heavyweight champion Joe Joyce (15-0, 14 KOs) on April 15th at the Copper Box Arena in London. The fight will be shown live on BT Sport.

It’s still unknown what platform the Joyce vs. Zhang fight will be shown in the U.S., but it wouldn’t be surprising if it ends up on ESPN.

Joyce is looking hard to beat right now, but he can hurt with the kind of power that ‘Big Bang’ Zhang possesses. It’s fair to say that if Joyce attempts to walk through Zhang’s shots, as he did in his last fight against Joseph Parker last September, we could see him suffer his first career defeat.

Zhang, 39, was beaten for the first time last August, losing a highly questionable 12 round unanimous decision to Filip Hrgovic in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The boxing world felt that Zhang deserved the victory, and it was another example of judges getting it terribly wrong. The scores were 115-112, 114-113, and 115-112.

“You seen a bit of flavor with [Bryant] Jennings [in 2019] when he hit me with some shots. I proceeded to throw a seven or nine-punch combo,” said Joe Joyce to Queensberry.

It wouldn’t be the smartest thing for Joyce to try and unload on Zhang with a seven to nine-punch combination because that’s a good way for him to get caught in between with a big shot from the Chinese fighter, who can punch with elite-level power with either hand.

While boxing fans praise how good of a chin Joyce possesses, the reality is he hasn’t faced a huge puncher along the lines of a Zhang or Deontay Wilder to test his punch resistance in a real way.

“I’m level-headed, and I get the job done, and I’m experienced,” Joyce said when asked if Zhang would make him lose his temper on April 15th.

“I’ll listen to my corner and be the ‘Juggernaut’ and walk through the fires and use my own flames to heat up my opponents. I haven’t fought a southpaw since I broke a record in history for the Commonwealth.

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“Big Bang, silly Zhang, you’re going to get banged by the Juggernaut,” said Joyce when asked to send a message to Zhilei. “He’s a big Chinese man, and he’s strong. He’s 6’6”, and he’s massive.

“He’s been to the Olympics, he’s experienced, and he can bang; he’s got a big bang, so I’ll have to watch out for it. He’s going to test the Juggernaut’s chin and whatever else,” said Joyce.