- British heavyweight boxer Joe Joyce vs Zhilei Zhang weekend match was lit
- It was the first time Joyce lost a match
- Zhang who many discounted for an amateur left Joyce with a swollen eye
British heavyweight boxer Joe Joyce vs Zhilei Zhang weekend match marked his first defeat in his career but he is determined to keep moving.
Joyce said after the six-round knockout on Saturday that his journey in boxing continues despite a tough match by Zhang.
The Chinese boxer eliminated Joyce from the match through a technical knockout in the sixth round at London’s Copper Box Arena.
The British heavyweight boxer, 37, laboured with a sore eye from repeatedly taking Zhang’s strong punching, forcing referee Howard Foster to stop the fight.
The ringside doctor immediately examined the bulging eye which was clearly obstructing his vision. He admitted that he was so disappointed with his fight against Zhang terming it a big loss.
“I’m just disappointed with my performance,” the British boxer told BT Sport. “The right hand he kept hitting me with… I couldn’t get out of the way, so respect to Zhang. I expected to win like I normally do. Thanks for all the support and congratulations.”
He told his fans and supporters to be patient with him as he works on a comeback noting that he barely loses. Joyce termed the defeat to Zhang ‘a hurdle which he tripped over’ but he will bounce back because the journey isn’t over yet.
The 2016 Olympic silver medalist was set to have a shot at the WBO world championship. He was the most preferred opponent for unified champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Joyce’s loss cost him his perfect record, the WBO interim belt, and the right to contend for the WBO world champion title.
There was a lot of discussion during fight week on whether Joyce, who had been a mandatory challenger since July 2021, would get his chance to defend his world championship.
Many fans and commentators disregarded the threat posed by Zhang. They put their hopes on Joyce who goes by the moniker “Juggernaut” due to his persistent style, which frequently exposes his defences.
Joyce put to action his famed “granite chin” fist in prior fights, including the victory over Joseph Parker last September, by deflecting hard blows like a gust of wind.
However, at the Copper Box Arena in east London, Joyce faced his most powerful opponent yet. Zhang, who weighed in 9lb heavier than Parker proved to bigger even in punches.
Zhang with a solid amateur background proved naysayers wrong as he took on Joyce with the temerity of a seasoned boxer.
The 39-year-old reclaimed his glory after losing to Filip Hrgovic in August 2022 in a bout that many boxing pundits said he won.
One of the tactics he employed when fighting Joyce was a sustained and straight punch from his left hand that made his opponent lose focus as his eye-swelling increased.
Joyce, too, admits that Zhang’s tactic worked well for him.
“I couldn’t get away from his straight left. He kept on nailing me in the eye and it swelled up my eye. That’s what happens when you take risks. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way which is it’s annoying. I thought I’d reach a victory here and it’s just disappointing I didn’t,” he told BBC Sport.