An old saying that any Boxing fan is likely to hear at some point is anything can happen in Boxing and that especially holds true for the Heavyweight division. At this time last year, Joe Joyce was an undefeated Heavyweight contender, who was riding high following the biggest win of his career in becoming the first fighter to stop former Heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker inside the distance. Just as it appeared that Joyce was on the verge of fighting for a world championship within a short time, he ran into a wall that brought his road to a world title to a halt.
The wall came in the form of 6'6 Heavyweight contender Zhilei Zhang. When the two Heated giants met in April of this year, it would be Zhang who would emerge victorious stopping the previously unbeaten "Knockout Artist" Joyce in six rounds. In a rare simple instance in the sport, Joyce exercised his rematch clause, which will take place without much delay or bucket between the two fighters or their camps on Saturday, September 23rd at the historic Wembley Arena in London, England. A rematch that can be seen in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+.
There are two questions that surround this rematch. The first question is one that could be asked in two parts. Is Joyce coming back too soon from a loss where frankly he suffered significant punishment before being stopped and whether there is wisdom in seeking an immediate rematch against Zhang. Question two is one that could be both simple or complex to answer. Will the outcome of the rematch be different than the first fight?
Prior to the first encounter, Joyce had firmly established himself as not only one of the Heavyweight division's feared "Knockout Artists," but as someone with a granite chin. One need look no further than his fight with Joseph Parker nearly one year to the day coincidentally of this rematch with Zhang for an illustration of Joyce's ability to take a punch as Parker regularly connected with hard punches, in particular with his right hand that often landed flush on the jaw and chin of Joyce. Punches that would have ended the night for most Heavyweights that Joyce was somehow able to walk through and keep coming forward.
One could argue however, that it is that very ability, the ability to take a punch that led to his downfall against Zhang in April. Zang was able to frequently land his left hand and right hook from the southpaw stance throughout the first fight. Although Joyce showed an often granite chin as he had done throughout his career, this was the first time in his career where he would be staggered by an opponent and, despite having some moments throughout and seemingly being able to out throw Zhang, he did not have an answer to avoid what Zhang was throwing at him and to be more specific, he had no way to defend and protect himself against what Zhang was able to land. The effects of the punishment dished out by Zhang became apparent as Joyce's right eye became cut and badly swollen resulting in the fight being stopped in round six.
As this rematch approaches Joyce must show some improvement in his ability to evade punches this time around. It is possible that Joyce's right eye may not be fully healed with only five months between the first fight and the second encounter. With this in mind, it may be likely that Zhang will look to target the right eye of Joyce early on, knowing what damage he was able to cause as well as the narrow period of time Joyce has had to heal from the first fight.
Although Joyce was heavily favored going into fight one, Zhang had only suffered one defeat, a narrow twelve round unanimous decision to Filip Hrgovic in August of last year. A fight that many, including this observer, felt Zhang deserved the decision. Even though it may have been possible that some, including perhaps even Joyce himself, underestimated Zhang back in April, it would be a mistake to write off what occurred the first time these two fighters were in the ring as merely a bad night at the office for Joyce.
Going into fight two, it is Zhang with the theoretical advantages and it is Joyce in the position of trying to avenge the only loss of his professional career. Nevertheless, one of the appeals of the sport of Boxing is indeed anything can happen and with much on the line for both fighters as well as the potential future of the division, this fight is truly must see. Whether Joe Joyce can even the score is a question that will be answered on September 23rd.
"And That's The Boxing Truth."
Zhang vs. Joyce 2 takes place on Saturday, September 23rd at the Wembley Arena in London, England. The fight can be seen here in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 5PM ET/2PM PT.
ESPN+ is available through the ESPN app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices, and Smart TVs. For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, and to subscribe please visit: www.ESPNPlus.com.
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