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Joe Joyce Lost Before Fighting For A World Title… Just Like Jack Johnson, And Jack Dempsey.

Posted on 04/17/2023

By: Sean Crose

Chances are you’ve never heard of one Klondike Haynes. Chances are also that you’ve never heard of one Willie Meehan, either. Yet Haynes defeated the great Jack Johnson. And Meehan defeated the great Jack Dempsey. What’s more, Johnson lost to Haynes and Dempsey lost to Meehan before each future legend got a crack at the heavyweight championship of the world. Indeed each legendary fighter had numerous losses on his resume before he was finally crowned heavyweight king. That’s something to keep in mind now that the highly touted heavyweight Joe Joyce has tasted defeat for the first time.


Walking into the ring this past Saturday in London, it was assumed that Joyce would defeat the hard hitting Zhilei Zhang. Yet when the fight was stopped in the sixth round, it was the magnificent Zhang, not Joyce who had his hand raised in victory. Joyce didn’t fight poorly. Zhang simply fought better. The southpaw’s straight left kept finding it’s way to Joyce’s face, causing the Englishman’s eye to swell grotesquely. No doubt the sight of the thoroughly bested Joyce, who some believed would give the division’s bigger names trouble, came as a surprise to the believers. For his own part, however, Joyce was gracious and accepting in defeat.

That’s a good thing. A look at the past can offer a newly defeated fighter insight. For Johnson and Dempsey weren’t the only fighters to be crowned heavyweight champion after facing defeat. Gene Tunney was thrashed by Harry Greb before attaining heavyweight glory. Likewise, Joe Louis was topped by Max Schmeling before becoming king of the heavyweights. While Joyce may not be able to attain the heights Johnson, Dempsey, Tunney and Louis did (How many have been?), there’s a very good possibility he can learn and grow from his loss to Zhang.

Joyce will have to get better, however. He appeared on Saturday to be nowhere near the level of fighter who could truly trouble men like Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, Deontay Wilder, or even Anthony Joshua. That, however, was Saturday. Today is Monday. And the tomorrows will likely stretch onward for Joyce. Provided he learn to stop fighting in an upright stance, to come up with a Plan B when his power doesn’t end things early, and to work on his speed, he may still very well live to his potential. All fighters have disappointment performances (Johnson and Dempsey had several, as did Ali). So long as those disappointments remain one offs, Joyce will have much to look forward to.

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