The heavyweight division seems to make headlines every day at the moment. Boxing’s glamour division is going through a golden age and Joe Joyce seems certain to play a big part in its future.
The number one contender for the WBO belt returns from a year long lay-off this weekend and will take on Christian Hammer at Wembley. The unbeaten ‘Juggernaut’ knows he must win to keep his world title dreams on track.
The chief support bout looks like being a cracker. Doncaster’s European super bantamweight champion, Jason Cunningham, has the chance to put himself in prime position to land a world title fight when he takes on the dangerous South African Zolani Tete who has held two world title belts at different weights himself.
On Thursday the fighters made the most of their final opportunity to speak to the media. Carry on reading to find out exactly what they had to say and what 32Red think may happen.
JASON CUNNINGHAM V ZOLANI TETE – 12 ROUNDS AT SUPER BANTAMWEIGHT
“This is a route for me to become a world champion for a third time and I have taken it very seriously. I never underestimate any of my opponents. I believe it’s going to be a great fight on Saturday night.
“Whenever we prepare, we go for what we’ve prepared for on fight night. I will definitely be looking to chop Jason down. I believe the paramedics will be there, I believe his family will be there but I believe Jason will be able to fight again.
“I’m not going to take anything away from him, he’s worked his way up. I’ve fought the best fighters in the world and I believe Jason is on his way up the levels. He’ll taste that on Saturday.
“I’m more sharp and stronger than I’ve been before, I can’t wait for the night when I’ll show Jason Cunningham. I’ve got more power than I’ve ever had.”
“Everybody seems to have it in for me at the moment. Terry [Le Couviour] wanted to eat me and Zolani wants to chop me down. At the end of the day it’s all talk and what happens on Saturday night is all that counts. I’m ready for Zolani, I hope you’ve had a good camp yourself and let the best man win. I believe that’s gonna be me. Let’s get it on.
“This is a very big fight for me. It’s world level now. The only thing before a world title is this fella, Zolani Tete. I respect everything he’s done in the past. He was a phenomenal fighter. It’s an intriguing fight because everybody’s questioning what Zolani Tete will turn up. I’ll find out on Saturday and I’m excited myself. I’m ready to put everything on the line and I’m ready to make it the fight of the night.”
Four years ago, two-time, two-weight world champion Tete, was one of the most avoided fighters in the lower weight divisions and Cunningham was looking to rebuild after suffering a couple of defeats. Cunningham is a decorated campaigner at domestic level but has upped his game dramatically over the past couple of years and is now the European super bantamweight champion. Tete has boxed less than a round since John Riel Casimero knocked him out years ago.
At his peak Tete was a tremendous talent, making the most of his physical advantages at super-flyweight and bantamweight and carrying fight ending power in both hands. On Saturday he will be facing a bigger man for the first time. Cunningham has become a well rounded fighter and knows that after years of chipping away at the coal face, this is his opportunity to cement a world title shot. He is focused on doing whatever it takes to win on Saturday night.
Given his inactivity, maybe it is a surprise that Tete has opened as a favourite with the bookmakers and although he has impressed at a higher level than Cunningham, we really have no idea what he has left. A Tete knockout will be a popular bet on Saturday but the value selection may be for Cunningham to use his size and determination to grind out a hard fought, career best decision.
JOE JOYCE V CHRISTIAN HAMMER – 12 ROUNDS AT HEAVYWEIGHT
“This isn’t my first time here in England. I’m really happy that I got the chance to have a fight with Joe Joyce and I’m looking forward to the fight.
“I’m feeling very well and I’m in good shape. This is a big chance for me and I’m going to give everything. I haven’t come here only for travel.
“In my last fight with Frank Sanchez I received the contract with less than three days to go. I was there on holiday and Sanchez’s opponent caught coronavirus so they offered me the fight and I thought I’d take the chance. For this fight I have prepared really well and I want to show everybody a good fight.
“He has to get past me so don’t believe I’m something easy.”
“I’m very good. I had a great training camp in Las Vegas working with Ismael Salas again. I’ve rehabbed my [wrist] injury and I’ve been adding more tools to the arsenal. I’m in a good place mentally and physically.
“I think Hammer is gonna be a good test and a good fight. He’s strong, he’s tough and he’s durable and he’s been in there with some really good names. It’s gonna be an exciting fight. I’m really looking forward to it and maybe working on a few things in preparation for the fights to come.
“I’m not gonna put any pressure on myself predicting rounds but it could go the distance or I could take him out. I’ve seen him throw some big shots. It’s a risky fight because I’ve got something they all want and he’s coming to try and take it. He’s had a good training camp so I’m looking forward to it.”
Christian Hammer slipped into England virtually unnoticed this week. Although it is his name on the poster and his face plastered across the pre-fight promotion, 99% of the talk has been about Joe Joyce and the fight that never happened against Joseph Parker. Hammer has faced the likes of Tyson Fury and Alexander Povetkin but has always come up short at the highest level. He will know that this may well be his last opportunity to earn a world title fight. He is four inches shorter than Joyce and will need to gamble on getting inside Joyce’s telegraph pole like jab and detonating a stunner on the Londoner’s previously unshakeble chin.
Unbeaten Joyce is unlikely to be fazed by the prospect of fighting Hammer instead of Parker. The 36 year old is all business and although he is coming off a year long lay off and a broken wrist, he lives a clean life and it shouldn’t take ‘The Juggernaut’ long to crank into gear. His position as the WBO’s mandatory challenger is on the line and Joyce cannot afford to overlook Hammer for a second.
Hammer has been stopped four times in his career. Although Joyce may eat a couple of overhand rights early on, it would be a surprise if Hammer can keep pace once Joyce finds his rhythm. Look for Joyce to wear down and bully Hammer before recording a stoppage in the second half of the fight.