In a sport where lots of fighters try to swerve potential hazards on their way to the top, Joe Joyce continues to smash through the obstacles.
The latest person to try and derail ‘The Juggernaut’ is Zhilei Zhang, the heavy-handed Chinese heavyweight. For the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
Joyce’s march towards the top of the heavyweight rankings has mirrored his relentless fighting style. Most high profile heavyweights in the world have sensibly done their best to avoid and ignore him but Joyce has finally cornered them by grinding away and taking on the best available opponents.
Experts have come around to Joyce’s unique skillset
He won the interim version of the WBO belt by beating Joseph Parker last September. If he beats Zhang, the only viable opponents for him will be full WBO champion, Oleksandr Usyk, Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
Joyce (15-0, 14 KO’s) was written off as stiff, slow and easy to hit but critics and experts have slowly come around to the 37-year-old’s unique skillset. His relentless pressure, inexhaustible gas tank, heavy hands and otherworldly chin make him a totally unique presence in the heavyweight division and maybe the most difficult problem to solve.
There is very little point in over-analysing the tactical nuances of an upcoming Joyce fight. You know exactly what he is going to do. He may concentrate on keeping those hands a little tighter and making sure that ramrod jab comes back to his chin a little quicker when he faces a puncher like Zhang but at 37 years old, Joyce isn’t going to reinvent the wheel. Joyce is available at 1/10.
This is the toughest task of Zhang’s career
Yes, he is predictable. Predicting the outcome of a Joe Joyce fight has become pretty easy. The Juggernaut will chug forward, break your heart and desire and emerge triumphant.
Last August, Zhang was widely tipped to get blasted out by the talented Filip Hrgovic. Instead, the Chinese heavyweight opened plenty of eyes and a good number of knowledgable judges felt he should have been given the victory and installed as the IBF’s mandatory challenger.
Beating Joyce gives him a short but hazardous route back to the top table. But Zhang is now 39 years old and will be facing by far the toughest task of his career.
Zhang (24-1-1,19 KO’s) is a 6ft 6in tall southpaw. He has a good chin himself and deceivingly quick hands. If he can get off first, he is capable of putting his punches together reasonably well. He dropped Hrgovic in the opening round and even put Jerry Forest on the canvas three times in the only other blemish on his record, a majority draw.
Joyce is arguably the form heavyweight in the world
Zhang’s footwork isn’t going to set the world alight but it won’t need to against Joyce. He will need to be fit, extremely resilient and willing to hold his feet and throw hard when Joyce inevitably exposes his chin. Zhang can – and will do that – but will it be enough? Zhang is priced at 6/1 to win the fight.
It won’t be enough. When activity and opposition are taken into account, Joyce is arguably the form heavyweight in the world at the moment. His fights have that sense of inevitability about them.
Everybody knows exactly what he is going to do but he is almost impossible to stop. Zhang will be brave and land his own punches. But it seems likely he will need to knock out Joyce to win and it’s hard to imagine him making more of an impact than Parker or Daniel Dubois.
The pick is for Joyce to beat down Zhang for a stoppage between rounds 7 and 8 at 17/4.