In a massive upset, two-time Olympian Zhilei Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) beat WBO interim heavyweight champion Joe ‘The Juggernaut’ Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) by a shocking sixth-round technical knockout on Saturday night in front of a large crowd of pro-Joyce supporters at the Copper Box Arena in London, England.
The southpaw Zhang’s monstrous power proved to be too much for Joyce, as he was staggered in the second round, and suffered right eye injury and a bloody nose.
The fight was stopped in the sixth round because Joyce, 37, could no longer see out of his right eye, which was entirely shut.
Whatever chances of the fight being allowed to continue went down the drawing after Zhang unleashed a brutal four-punch flurry in the sixth, with each thudding shot snapping the head back of the tired & hurt-looking Joyce.
At that point, referee Howard Foster stopped the action and had the ringside doctor examine Joyce’s closed right eye. Foster then waved off the fight. The time of the stoppage was at 1:23 of the sixth round.
From the get-go in the first round, Joyce got hit repeatedly by left hands from Zhang. The shots from Zhang were not only more powerful than Joyce’s but they were thrown with better speed.
In round two, Zhang staggered Joyce with a left hand to the head that buckled his knees, causing him to retreat. Zhang followed him, nailing him with left hands and right hooks to the head.
In the third, Joyce applied contact pressure on Zhang, throwing nonstop punches that were mostly blocked by the gloves & arms of the two-time Chinese Olympian. Toward the end of the round, Zhang nailed Joyce with two hard lefts to the head that bloodied his nose and caused swelling in his right eye.
At the end of the round, Joyce’s corner looked concerned as tended to his swollen right eye. They realized that if Joyce’s eye continued to swell, he wasn’t going to last much longer against the heavy-handed Zhang.
Interestingly, rather than playing it safe to protect his swollen right eye, Joyce went for broke, attacking Zhang all-out in rounds four and five, gambling that he could knockout ‘Big Bang.’ The gamble proved to be a mistake on Joyce’s part, as Zhang continued to nail him with hard punches to the, worsening the swelling of his right eye.
When Joyce came out for the sixth round, his right eye was almost entirely closed. Zhang then took advantage of Joyce’s diminishing vision by blasting him with hurtful-looking shots to the head and doing more damage to his eye.
With the victory, Zhang is now the WBO mandatory challenger to IBF/WB/WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and will be able to challenge him for his title, possibly in early 2024. Of course, if Zhang loses to before then, he can forget about fighting for a world title.
You got to believe Joyce and his promoter will attempt to entice Zhang to fight an immediate rematch. It’ll be interesting to see if that plays out.