By: Sean Crose
This one is a pretty interesting heavyweight matchup to be sure. Queensbury promotions has announced that “Joe Joyce will defend his WBO Interim World Heavyweight title against the Chinese giant Zhilei Zhang at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday, 15 April, live on BT Sport.” Joyce has become one of the top rising stars in boxing, much less the heavyweight division after soundly beating up former world titlist Joseph Parker last October. The 15-0 Brit has won all of his fights save 1 within the distance. A fight in London against an opponent of Zhang’s caliber is another solid step in the right direction for the 37 year old.
“It is a great fight,” says Joyce. “He (Zhang) had a tough fight against Hrgovic but I thought he won the fight. Zhang is a big, strong southpaw who is massive, and he has been to the Olympics and all that. So, he has the experience and I think it will be a great fight…He bangs so I will have to watch out for it. As Hrgovic and I have a similar style, they had a great fight, so when we fight it should be entertaining.” The towering Zhang’s last fight saw the American based fighter – by way of China – drop a decision to Filip Hrgovic in August.
The 24-1-1 Zhang is no easy opponent for Joyce, however. While there’s no doubt Joyce is the favorite walking in here, Zhang is eager to not let a lone defeat turn into a career roadblock. “It’s a new chapter in my career,” he says. “I am always up for the challenge when the opportunity rings the bell. Joe Joyce and I share a lot in common – we both are Olympic silver medalists, both are big punchers, and are nearly the same size. This is going to be an explosive, epic and tremendous fight.”
Promoter Frank Warren is eager to point out that Joyce, who is looking for major matchups with the likes of world titlists Tyson Fury and Olesandr Usyk, is taking on a risky fight here. “Zhilei Zhang is anything but an easy touch,” Warren says. “He is a formidable powerhouse who can consider himself unlucky not to be still an unbeaten contender following his fight with Filip Hrgovic last year.” Suffice to say, Joyce-Zhang is an extremely important fight for both men, as a victory may well lead to bigger things. Much bigger things.
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