Hometown heavyweight Joe Joyce headlined at Copper Box in London Saturday, sharing a stage with Chinese hitter Zhang Zhilei. The China native Zhang came in at 39 years old, with a 24-1-1 (19 KOs) mark, and an obvious fire in his gut. His left hand dialed in early on Joyce, and swelling got problematic. At 1:34 of round six, the fight was stopped, Zhang declared TKO winner.
Tally one for a nice guy. Who doesn’t punch like one…
Zhang Zhilei went 78-140 to 60-253 for the loser. He exulted for himself, and for China, postfight.
Zhang postfight said, “Today belongs to me. It belongs to everyone who showed up. It belongs to every Chinese person who showed up today.
“I’m 39 years old. But I’m disciplined. I train hard. The next step is for me to fight for a world title.”
Joyce said after, “I’m just disappointed with my performance. The [left] hand kept hitting me, and I couldn’t get out of the way. So, respect to Zhilei Zhang. It was a good fight, but I think I could have done better.
“I haven’t fought a southpaw for so long. Credit to him because he’s a good fighter. I gave it my all, and I think I can do better. It’s just disappointing. I expected to win like I normally do.”
The 6-6 lefty Zhang, who has made New Jersey home for a decade, came in off a debatable loss, to Filip Hrgovic.
The 278 pounder strode to the ring with trainer Shaun George to “We Will Rock You” by Queen, never a bad idea.
Joyce, age 37, also 6-6, came to the ring at 15-0 (14 KOs), as the WBO interim heavyweight titlist.
The match was promoted by Frank Warren, promoter to Joyce, so “the Juggernaut” crowd saw a nicely made promo video with Joyce then trekking to the ring to a Juggernaut hip hop song.
Zhang Zhilei Starts Strong
In the first, we saw a trimmed down Joyce eating shots at 1:45. Zhang Zhilei had flab at his beltline, would Joyce target that?
In the second, the 256 pound Joyce was more the aggressor. A left buzzed Joyce, at 1:45. He was getting tagged by the straight left, then collected himself. He aimed at the body, his hand speed slow but accurate.
In the third, we saw that the right eye of Joyce had swelled up. The action was constant, slow but constant. Joyce got busier, so Zhang Zhilei didn’t get into a rhythm. The lefts, though, Zhang was intent on dropping those launches.
In the fourth, Joyce started fast. Sort of slo motion fast, I guess. The Zhang lefts would land with force, and Joyces’ lack of head movement was apparent. He kept coming, though. Trainer Ismael Salas told Joe to “pick up the pace.”
The Joyce Eye Gets Worse
In round five, Zhang stayed right in front of Joyce, blocking with a high guard, then getting off one twos. He may have been letting Joyce get work in, to help pace himself. Joyce’s face looked bruised and scraped. The right eye looked not too great. His training team asked for an uppercut. The doc checked the eye to start the sixth.
In the sixth, the left from Zhang Zhilei got aimed at the closing right eye. He paced himself, slowing his output, then firing a flurry. A break to check the eye came at 1:36, and the plug got pulled.