Rematches can be fun.
And even unfair.
Five months ago, Zhilei Zhang upset the applecart of favored Joe Joyce, stopping the Brit in six heats. The victory should have earned Zhang, a native of Zhoukou, China, a title shot at either heavyweight champions Oleksandr Usyk or Tyson Fury, but it did not.
Daniel Dubois received the shot. Zhang’s consolation prize is a second go-around with Joyce this Saturday at Wembley’s OVO Arena.
Zhang wasn’t happy.
“The frustration was there,” Zhang told ProBox TV a few months ago. “I originally thought he (Joyce) maybe wanted step-aside money.”
Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) didn’t agree.
What he wanted was an immediate rematch. Zhang was lukewarm to the idea.
“I feel like the rematch is not necessary,” said Zhang. “I had to sign the rematch clause in order to get Joe Joyce. I feel like his team made a mistake in the first fight. If I beat Joe Joyce again, his career’s going to end.”
Zhang,40, has won 25 of 26 fights. His lone loss was to Filip Hrgovic. Debatable. Zhang has knocked out 20 opponents. He picked up a silver medal for China at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Southpaw Zhang throws straight punches, which baffled Joyce in fight one. It was like he had never fought a southpaw before. Joyce couldn’t avoid Zhang’s left, which wobbled him and busted up his left eye. Hence the stoppage in round six.
Joyce, winner of the silver at the 2016 Olympic games, feels he’s ready for the sequel.
“I’m coming back to take back what’s mine. September 23rd. I am leaving everything in that ring. No compromises. No underestimating my opponent. Nothing but a win. Last time out, I lost my undefeated professional record,” Joyce said in an article posted on badlefthook.com.
“It was hard to take. But after the dust settles, all that will do is make me better. I’ve learned lessons.”
But can he avoid Zhang’s heavy left hand? The blow did something that many were wondering was even possible – it buckled Joyce.
Carlos Takam and Joseph Parker nailed him with hard hooks that would have dropped most heavyweights. Joyce,38, just looked at them. Joyce looked at Zhang as well, but the look was shock and woozy.
“I know what to do this time around,” Joyce said in an article by Anthony Cocks of Ringnews24.com posted last week.
“I am coming in a lot more dedicated and focused this time,” said Joyce. “I’ve had a bit more practice with the southpaw style in terms of sparring and tactics going into this fight.”
I believe him. Joyce likely worked hard on avoiding a left hand, but can an old dog learn a new trick? He’ll likley still get cracked.
Joyce is terribly slow, and Zhang has better reflexes. Zhang has been prone to stamina issues. See the Jerry Forest fight in 2021, but he’s smart and crafty.
Zhang is the betting favorite. A few weeks ago, Liam Smith was favored to beat Chris Eubank Jr. in a rematch.
Something is telling me that Joyce gets it done.
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