‘Juggernaut’ vs ‘Big Bang’
Joyce vs Zhang expert fight analysis
Two Olympic silver medallists will collide in a huge heavyweight war in London as undefeated ‘Juggernaut’ Joe Joyce (15-0, 14KO) defends his WBO Interim title to explosive Chinese contender Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19KO) at the Copper Box Arena on April 15.
This headlining pair both possess extensive amateur pedigree, big-fight experience, boxing skill and power.
Zhang has a draw and a defeat as blemishes on his record, but both can be deemed a little unfair and deceiving.
His draw to Jerry Forrest in 2021, Zhang claims to have been weight-drained having had a lack of food and water intake when he was in “The Bubble” during the pandemic, which understandably would have been very different to his preparation for other fights. He scored three knockdowns before tiring midway and having to hold on right to the final bell where he ended the fight turning his back away from Forrest, suggesting that with a further few seconds and he could even have been stopped.
He was taken to hospital after that gruelling 10-round contest where he was suffering from dehydration, which solidifies his claim that he lost 8lbs just before the fight.
In his IBF Final Eliminator with undefeated Croatian Filip Hrgovic, Zhang decked the favourite in the opening round and had him hurt in several other rounds, but was denied the win on the scorecards despite many believing he had won.
In both that draw and defeat, Zhang started brightly then faded in the second half of the fights. Against Joyce, he will be forced to fight at a pace he has likely never experienced before.
Londoner Joyce is like no other fighter. He is a relentless pressure fighter who doesn’t stop throwing punches for a single second due to his unrivalled engine, who stands up tall and takes a lot of shots in return but just blinks every time they bounce off his granite chin.
He’s called ‘Juggernaut’ for a reason, because he just keeps on coming and there’s very little you can do to stop him or push him back.
Some critics aren’t fans of his style, but he’s got a high ring IQ and pinpoint accuracy. When he persistently peppered Daniel Dubois with his sharp jab, in their 50-50 fight in 2020, he honed in on the damaged eye of his rival until he was forced to quit with a fractured eye socket.
Zhang has shown he also possesses a good chin after taking a lot of big shots from Forrest and from Hrgovic too. But he also has question marks over his stamina, which is not a weakness you really want to show against a machine like Joyce.
Joyce is the favourite to win at 1/10 with Betway, while Zhang is a 5/1 underdog.
Zhang is sharp counter-puncher so Joyce is likely to get caught with a few combinations early on, but the East Asian is there to be hit, so I can see him eating some big shots from the ‘Juggernaut’.
Having never been stopped before, this suggests Zhang is tough and will have a few rounds in him, plus he has been through a few wars to prove that theory already.
However, the pace, pressure and persistence that Joyce will impose from the opening, I believe, will force Zhang into submission at some point.
Joe Joyce to stop Zhilei Zhang in rounds 6-9 (8/1 with Betway)