The heavyweight division kicks back into life in London this weekend when Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce meet in a rematch for the WBO Interim heavyweight title live on TNT Sport. The winner will become the mandatory challenger for the full belt, currently held by unified champion, Oleksandr Usyk. For the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
Lineal and WBC champion, Tyson Fury, was an interested observer in April when Zhang comprehensively beat Joyce. Zhang’s southpaw style flummoxed the Londoner who was unable to rumble forward in his customary style. After six rounds, Zhang’s accurate jab and surprisingly fast hands had closed Joyce’s right eye and the fight was stopped. Joyce lost for the first time and faces an uphill task to reverse matters on Saturday night.
“Joyce got beat like I thought he would”
Fury, in his own maverick way, decided to offer himself up as a sparring partner to Joyce for the rematch, volunteering to share his secrets and help Joyce prepare for the challenge of taking on a smart southpaw. Joyce didn’t take Fury up on his offer, preferring instead to return to his familiar training base in Las Vegas where he has prepared with his trainer, Ismael Salas.
“He got beat like I thought he would. Me and Shane [his brother] thought that Zhang would beat him,” Fury told Dev Shani for Queensberry Promotions. “I actually thought that Joe would have to get up off the floor a couple of times and claw a win back, maybe, if he took him a few rounds. Obviously he didn’t and he got beat.
“I told Joe – live on the internet – that if he came to Morecambe Bay I’d almost guarantee him a win over Zhang. He didn’t, he went to Vegas. You can’t help somebody who doesn’t want to be helped. It is what it is.”
Fury is embroiled in preparations for his mega event with Francis Ngannou which takes place in Saudi Arabia in October but is a true student of heavyweight boxing. He will have a close eye on this weekend’s rematch as the winner may emerge as a potential future opponent.
“I think Zhang is a very tough opponent”
Although the world wants to see him and Usyk face off and decide who the true heavyweight king is, the past year has reminded us that heavyweight boxing is a law unto itself and the fights that fans want aren’t always the fights that get made.
Fury refused to divulge exactly what details he was prepared to share with Joyce but his boxing brain has clearly been working and it does sound like he may already have one eye on Zhang. Who knows, the Gypsy King’s world tour may yet schedule a stop in Beijing for what would be another monumental event.
“I can’t tell you that. That would be giving my training secrets away but let me just say, make no mistakes about it, if Joe had come up to Morecambe Bay he would have smashed Zhang. Now I’m not so sure,” Fury said. “You have to favour the Chinese man, purely on the fact that he’s already beaten him once and if he doesn’t do something different in the next fight and it goes down the same road, he’ll beat him again.
“I think he’s a very tough opponent and he’s a big southpaw punching man. He’s not like Usyk, a feather duster jibbing and jabbing around the ring. This man is trying to take your brains out. He’s 6ft 6in and twenty stone. He’s a very different customer and very dangerous.”