Whether or not Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk trade hands on the 29th, we’re guaranteed some quality heavyweight action in April. Frank Warren announced today that WBO interim champ Joe Joyce will face Zhilei Zhang on April 15th at London’s Copper Box Arena.
Joyce (15-0, 14 KO) hit a quiet patch in his career after what should have been a star-making thumping of Daniel Dubois, but after puttering along with finishes of Carlos Takan and Christian Hammer, he returned to the big show last September against Joseph Parker. The fight predictably wound up being one of 2022’s best, ultimately ending with a clubbing left hook from Joyce that handed Parker the first stoppage loss of his career.
In the eyes of most, Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KO) should be entering the ring with the same sort of momentum. He erased the memory of his catastrophic collapse against Jerry Forrest by seemingly upsetting Filip Hrgovic, only to wind up on the wrong side of a controversial unanimous decision.
There’s every reason to believe this will be a banger. Besides being gigantic, both men know how to effectively utilize their physical abilities. Joyce uses his motor and durability to great effect, while Zhang’s hands are deceptively fast and polished for his size. Damn good fight, and it’s nice that at least some form of hardware will be at stake.
“It is a great fight,” reacted Joyce to his first defence being set. “He had a tough fight against Hrgovic but I thought he won the fight. Zhang is a big, strong southpaw who is massive, and he has been to the Olympics and all that. So, he has the experience and I think it will be a great fight.
“He bangs so I will have to watch out for it. As Hrgovic and I have a similar style, they had a great fight, so when we fight it should be entertaining.
“It will be carnage in the centre of the ring! I have lost my temper a few times in sparring and once was against a come-forward southpaw who was trying to knock me out. It was an exciting spar.
“I think with me and Zhang there will be real heavy punches exchanged and I am sure it will be a good fight. It will be a good preparation for Usyk or Fury, plus I haven’t fought a southpaw since I won the Commonwealth title against Lenroy Thomas.”
“It’s a new chapter in my career,” Zhilei Zhang added on the crunch heavyweight clash at the Copper Box. “I am always up for the challenge and when the opportunity rings the bell. Joe Joyce and I share a lot in common – we both are Olympic silver medalists, both are big punchers, and are nearly the same size. This is going to be an explosive, epic and tremendous fight.
“I want to thank my team and Joyce’s team for putting this together. I want all my fans in UK to show up and enjoy the event. Can’t wait to get in the ring on April 15th.”
The undercard “will be announced in due course” and feature “a host of Queensberry’s established and rising stars.”