Joe Joyce really does deserve credit for taking an immediate rematch with Zhilei Zhang, the man who busted him up and stopped him, taking his unbeaten record and interim WBO heavyweight title in April. Even if Joyce, who was armed with a rematch clause, wasn’t exactly blessed with a ton of other options, “The Juggernaut” showed heart and desire by wanting to get back in there with the man who shocked him. But will the rematch, this Saturday, once again in London, prove to be a case of repeat, not of revenge?
And if it is the latter, if Joyce is beaten again, by the same dude, is his career, at least at top level, over? Two losses do not necessarily indicate the end for a fighter, but we must remember a few things with Joyce: he is 38 years old (tomorrow), he may not be able to significantly improve or change his style and approach this far into his career, and Joyce’s best and most celebrated asset is his ability to walk through anything in order to win. Add it all up, and a long career does not look too likely.
Then there is Joe’s right eye, will it hold up to further punishment from the big southpaw from China known as “Big Bang?” Has Joyce’s eye (which Zhang says, with no signs of sympathy, he will be fully targeting on Saturday night) fully healed up? Joyce, who came in “light” for the first fight, will be heavier on Saturday, and he may be able to, heck, he better be able to move his head far more than he did back in April. Joyce, we hope, has been getting good quality southpaw sparring ahead of Saturday’s must-win rematch.
Back in April, Joyce looked woefully equipped to be able to come close to dealing with a southpaw. So, was it just a bad night, as in a REALLY bad night at the office for the likeable Londoner? Or did Joyce grow old overnight, with him left unable to improve on his last performance? We will only find out on Saturday. It’s the single most important fight of Joyce’s career and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.
Zhang is of course brimming with confidence, certain he can and will beat up on Joyce a second time. Zhang has to be looked at as the favourite on Saturday, even if Joyce can never be totally written off. Zhang, no spring chicken himself at age 40, has nevertheless taken less punishment than has Joyce (his tough night with Jerry Forrest probably being his hardest pro fight thus far), and this could prove crucial.
Joyce, 15-1(14) feels he was still in the fight back in April, that Zhang was beginning to run out of gas. It might be that this is Joe’s best chance of victory this time, that Zhang dishes out punishment early, but this time Joyce’s eye holds up, and then Zhang fades and is there to be taken in the later rounds. But for this outcome to be successful, Joyce will have to ship some serious shots early and during the middle rounds.
Even if he does get the win on Saturday, at what cost will it be for Joyce? How much has Zhang, 25-1-1(20) taken out of Joyce and, win or lose, repeat or revenge on Saturday, how much more will “Big Bang” take out of Joyce?
Pick: Zhang stops Joyce again, around the 7th or 8th round.