It was bound to happen eventually. And it did this past weekend at the Copper Box Arena in London, Joe Joyce was stopped via technical knockout in six rounds by Zhilei Zhang. From the very beginning of this fight he couldn't cope with Zhang's power, and over time his right eye was swollen shut.
The prudent decision was made to wave off the bout at 1:23 of the sixth.
“Today belongs to me. It belongs to everyone who showed up. It belongs to every Chinese person who showed up today," said Zhang.
On this particular night, 'the Juggernaut' simply could not overcome his deficiencies in speed and defense. He tried his best to work in volume and put the big Chinese southpaw on the defensive, but he could never get away from his big left hand that buzzed him several times. While Zhang was the bigger man, the 6'6, 278 behemoth was actually the more fluid fighter, and quicker athlete.
But then again, just about every foe that Joyce comes across will have advantages in those areas.
Joyce is a robotic sort, one that moves in sections in a lumbering fashion. Despite being 15 pounds lighter than his last fight (at 256 pounds), he looked even more ponderous than usual, and it was as if he was moving under water. His punches, while never particularly quick, were delivered via Pony Express in this bout. While he was able to lay some leather on Zhang, he could never dent his armor fully. While numerous left hands hurt him in return.
“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,'' said Joyce, whos record falls to 15-1 (14 KOs).
“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.”
These critiques are no knock on Joyce, an amiable sort who has gotten the most out of his abilities, and always makes for entertaining fights. But he was bound to run into someone who would take advantage of all his technical defects while holding off his usual onslaught.
Coming into this fight Joyce was the WBO interim heavyweight champion, and rated fourth in the games glamour division by Ring Magazine. Well, his spot is now taken over by Zhang, who's one loss (25-1-1, 20 KOs) came last year in a disputed decision against the undefeated Filip Hrgovic. Now it is Zhang who is now taken his spot. in the pecking order at heavyweight It is being reported that there is a rematch clause that is held by Joyce, but it's hard to imagine the second go-around being any different.
Regardless of the result, Joyce should be appreciated for what he is. A fun heavyweight, who is a very likable fella. But one that is very flawed and would eventually be exploited. While Zhang is now a bona fide contender.
“I’m 39 years old. But I’m disciplined. I train hard. The next step is for me to fight for a world title."
Just recently it was April 16, which in itself isn't a big deal, but it did mark the one year anniversary of the last time we saw unified welterweight champion, Errol Spence, in action. It was April 16, 2022, when he stopped Yordenis Ugas in 10 rounds at AT@T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
He has been idle since that contest.
There was some talk last year of a showdown against WBO belt-holder, Terence Crawford, but that fight never came to fruition. Those negotiations are now taking place again, and there is actually a good chance that Spence-Crawford finally comes to fruition in the summer
But here's the reality of that fight(as I tweeted last week):
There is a reason why that fight (which is still very much an elite match-up) will not have the same impact of fights in the past -- the general public simply has no familiarity with either guy. Delving further into this, while Spence fought just once last year, he's had just two fights since the end of 2019. His near fatal auto accident certainly curbed his activity in that period of time. While Crawford has boxed just once a year since 2019. His lone outing in '22 was a sixth round stoppage of David Avenesyan.
Spence is now 33 years old, while Crawford is currently 35. When Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns met in 1981, they were basically a full decade younger. You wonder why boxing doesn't have the same importance it once did, and it's pretty simple: the fighters aren't nearly as active, and they don't make the key fights nearly fast enough. Think about this, when Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad met at undefeated welterweight champions in 1999, they were both 26.
Looking at the fight schedule, just off the top of my head, the likes of Dmitry Bivol (the 2022 Fighter of the Year) Regis Prograis, Jaime Munguia, the Charlo Brothers, Juan Francisco Estrada, among others, do not have anything lined up.