Zhilei Zhang vs. Joe Joyce – Froch & Groves preview September 23rd rematch

By Michael Collins - 09/04/2023 - Comments

Joe Joyce got the royal stuffing hammered out of him by Zhilei ‘Big Bang’ Zhang last April, and now he’ll be back for a second helping on September 23rd at the Wembley Arena in London.

The 37-year-old Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) is down & out, needing a victory over the hard-hitting 6’6″ Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) to reclaim the WBO interim heavyweight title, which he lost by a sixth round knockout last Apil.

Joyce knows that if he doesn’t recapture the WBO interim title, his chances of ever getting a title shot are close to zero. ‘The Juggernaut is too old to work his way back to the #1 position to become mandatory if he were to walk away from his loss to Zhang last April.

It seems like a bad gamble for Joyce to fight the southpaw Zhang because the southpaw ‘Big Bang’ completely outgunned him from start to finish, and this wasn’t a situation where he was drained or injured. Joyce wasn’t good enough.

We likely won’t see a Chris Eubank Jr. type of redemption with Zhang being weight-drained or injured like Liam Smith.

Joe Joyce got beaten up

“Zhilei Zhang vs. Joe Joyce is on the 23rd of September, and it’s another revenge fight,” said George Groves to talkSPORT Boxing.

“It’s a rematch, and Joe Joyce got beat,” said Carl Froch. “He got beat because he got totally outboxed, wiped out, smashed to bits, or was it the eye was closing that it caused him so many problems that he had to pull out of the fight?”

The ringside doctor is the one who stopped the fight. It wasn’t a case of Joyce quitting or his corner pulling him out. His left eye was completely closed.

“He got busted up. He gets hit anyway, Joe Joyce,” said Froch. “He’s a great fighter for what he does. The ‘Juggernauts’ fitting. He comes forward, he has no head movement. He walks through shots; he walks through walls.

“He gets smashed in the face with ramrod jabs, left crosses, right crosses, hooks & uppercuts. He’s not even bleeding or cut. Is this guy even human? He’s like Terminator 2 and just keeps coming for you.

“In that fight against Zhang, his eye was closing, and he looked like he was getting hurt. He was getting damaged. Zhang ended up beating him. So, to me, it’s a good rematch.

“Zhang is a good fighter, quite tidy; he boxes well. He finds the range on that jab quite early, and once he’s got his opponents hurt, he sticks with it. I like Zhang; I like what he does.

“I’ve always liked Joe Joyce. I think he’s tough. He’s fascinating to watch because he doesn’t do anything spectacular. He actually looks at times like a novice pro who looks like he doesn’t have any moves, but what he’s doing in there, walking forward, letting those shots go with no head movement, is so effective.

“I’ve seen him spar Anthony Joshua at the IS in Sheffield; I’ve seen him sparring all the top fighters. After three rounds, they’re looking at the clock, and they’re looking at the corner, thinking, ‘Can I go home now? I’ve had enough of this.’ It’s like too much pressure, but it just didn’t work against Zhang,” said Froch.

Will Joyce be quicker?

“Joe Joyce will be quicker. I just felt like everything about him was just so slow, and I know he’s not been known for being the fastest heavyweight on the planet, but it was like his feet were stuck in the mud,” said Groves.

There’s literally no chance that Joycee will be any quicker in the rematch with Zhang than he was the first time around.

“It was like he was fighting in water, and he’s always been known for having a great chin. The punches just bounce off him, but that don’t always work, does it? Zhang, he’s been around a long time now, but he’s a solid heavyweight, and he’s not someone to be taken lightly.

“Pushed Hrgovic all the way. Hrgovic got the nod, and some people think he might have been slightly fortunate in that fight, a really close fight, and Hrgovic now, he’s the number one [IBF] contender for Oleksandr Usyk.

“So this is the level that we’re talking about. Joyce needs to be better and just certainly needs to be making the guys miss a little bit.

“Even if you ain’t got the sharp enough reactions to slip and slide out the way of the shots with your dips in your head movement, with your feet are not quick enough to drop in and out of range.

“Then just get the hands up and cover and block and then punch off of that. He is the Juggernaut. It’s brute strength, brute force. He is a force, and I still rate him. He’s got a fantastic engine. As you say, the sparring partners, no one’s enjoying rounds,” said Groves about Joyce.

Zhang has the Juggernauts number

“He destroys the souls that ring because his work rate doesn’t stop; the pace doesn’t stop. He just plods forward,” said Froch about Joyce. “It doesn’t look like he does anything special; it doesn’t even look like he punches hard.”

It’s safe to say that Zhang will dominate this fight once again, and the only way he’ll wear down is by punching Joyce in the face. With Zhang’s power, we could see one of Joyce’s eyes close up again.

“He’s not fast. He’s not dynamic. There’s no head movement. It’s just basic bulk standard to watch sometimes. You think, ‘Oh, he’s going off here, and he’s just really effective,” Froch continued about Joyce.

“The only guy I’ve seen really other than Zhang stopping him, the only other guy I’ve seen do a job on him was is in the World Series of Boxing. Actually, it was Oleksandr Usyk in the five, three-minute round format. The cross between amateur and professional, the WSB, the World Series of Boxing.

“Some people won’t be familiar with that, but that’s kind of a step in between amateur and professional, and I watched that fight, and Usyk really did just outbox him and really smash him to bits in that one.

“So it shows that boxing ability and movement and skills, and you know angles, and setting stuff up, distance and timing and all the things you need to be a top fighter, top boxer, that is actually better than Joe Joyce’s tactic of walking forward and being a juggernaut and just steamrolling his opponent,” said Froch.

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