Speaking exclusively to online sportsbook BetVictor, brand ambassador Joe Joyce has lifted the lid on his preparations for his upcoming rematch with Zhilei Zhang.
In the interview, the 37-year-old reflects on the first defeat of his career in their previous meeting, the mental challenge it provided and how optimistic he’s feeling ahead of the rematch, with the WBO interim title and a potential meeting with Oleksandr Usyk on the line.
BetVictor: You’ve had the opportunity to reflect over a period of time since the last fight. How much of that did you actually take out of it in terms of re-watching it and analysing it? Was it just once or twice? Or did you let your team look at it?
Joe Joyce: I looked at it directly after the fight a couple of times. It’s just, you know, quite hard to watch. But I saw where my mistakes were. But then yeah, during camp we reviewed it a couple more times with Salas (Ismael Salas – trainer). I went to Salas’ house, reviewed the footage, and discussed the tactics going in there, what I need to change, and everything. So yeah, I have a clearer picture of what to do.
BetVictor: With regard to the camp you’ve had so far, was it a case of minor tweaks or was it anything wholesale you’ve really done differently to prepare?
Joe Joyce: Just more of the same really, like more practice with the southpaw stance, correcting and nitpicking a lot of little other mistakes that I made in the previous camp and corrected them for this camp.
BetVictor: The southpaw stance is something a lot of people have spoken about from the previous fight. You’ve fought plenty of different types of people at the amateur level. But is it different going into that professional level trying to fight a southpaw when perhaps you haven’t had as much ring experience as he (Zhilei Zhang) would have had fighting some more orthodox fighters?
Joe Joyce: Yeah, especially at that level. He’s (Zhang) a very hard-hitting southpaw, counter southpaw, and he kind of had a warmup fight fighting Filip Hrgovic, which was a similar style. He posed quite a big threat, and he damaged my eye which caused the fight to stop. But I felt that I was still in there and there are a lot of improvements I can make this time around. But then again, he’s going to be improving too.
BetVictor: Looking back, it seemed like you were still – even with the eye issue – starting to come into your fight after what was perhaps a slightly slower start than you’d have liked. When you look at the number of punches you were throwing versus him, do you feel like the longer it goes, the more of an advantage that will give you?
Joe Joyce: Yeah, for sure and I think that is what he and his team kind of went for. They managed to catch me, or they managed to catch me because I was a bit square on, like a few mistakes and stuff in the camp. So those are going to be corrected and I’m going to come in bigger, stronger, and better.
BetVictor: Feels like boxers themselves put a huge amount of pressure on. Obviously, it’s a little different being unbeaten in your professional days before then heading into that fight last time. Do you feel you’re going in with a different mindset off the back of that? Or does it not really bother you?
Joe Joyce: It bothered me, the loss. So, I’ve had to make changes to make sure I win this time and I feel much better within myself. You know, I’m heavier and I’m more focused and determined.
BetVictor: I suppose the pressure is always on.
Joe Joyce: Yeah, there is a lot of pressure because I’ve got to get back to the WBO interim title, which he (Zhang) now has. In the order of the mandatories, it could be my shot next once I get the title back. Because Dubois had his shot then Hrgovic for the IBF, and then it’s the WBO.
BetVictor: What do you think Zhang’s best three attributes would be, having gone toe-to-toe with him?
Joe Joyce: His size – he is very big and strong. He’s also accurate, and he’s a southpaw; a very experienced one. He’s a silver medallist too. He’s gone through the amateurs, progressed in the pro, and he’s quite a danger man. I guess he probably has been avoided. But then, I gave him that opportunity, and he took it from me (WBO). So, this is about getting it back off him.
BetVictor: The other thing I heard you mention in interviews is his deceptive speed. Can you give us a bit more on that?
Joe Joyce: Yeah, so with his counters, when I was throwing the right hand, he was already timing it before I brought my hand back, and he was catching me in the eye every time. Those shots were few, but they are very fast.
BetVictor: Those are his strengths. Obviously, we’ve got to go about beating him this time, Joe. Where do you think his weaknesses potentially lie?
Joe Joyce: Well, I think over the stretch I was coming on strong, you know, from the fifth or sixth round. There are a lot of other things as well that we’ve analysed over the camp. But I’m going to have to show you that on the 23rd.