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Zhilei Zhang: Joe Joyce has never fought anyone with my power, I’ll pierce the armor of the ‘Juggernaut’

Zhilei Zhang believes Joe Joyce has never faced the power he’ll bring on April 15.

Zhilei Zhang believes Joe Joyce has never faced the power he’ll bring on April 15
Zhilei Zhang believes Joe Joyce has never faced the power he’ll bring on April 15
Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

Zhilei Zhang will return to London for the first time since the London 2012 Olympics to fight heavyweight contender Joe Joyce on April 15. Zhang is back in the heavyweight mix following a tight and entertaining loss to Filip Hrgovic last August and is planning on further climbing the ladder in claiming the WBO interim heavyweight title, currently held by Joyce (15-0, 14 KO).

Through translation, Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KO) spoke to Bad Left Hook from his camp in New Jersey.

How do you think you’ll react to being the away fighter in London?

It won’t be a shock at all. I don’t see the United Kingdom as away territory. I know that I have fans there and I know that people will be buying tickets to see me, as well as Joe Joyce.

Do you consider yourself one of the more exciting heavyweights in the division?

Yes. When fans look at me they see the core values of boxing. I am explosive. And I love the sport from the bottom of my heart. I train all the time and I guess this professionalism and dedication is why I have become more popular.

What does Joe Joyce do well?

Everybody calls him a “Juggernaut” for a reason; he does look like one. He’s very well conditioned, can take a punch and has an iron chin. All these things are very impressive.

No one has been able to hurt Joe Joyce – what makes you different?

He’s never fought anyone like me. I have the power to hurt him and he’ll feel this. If he is a “Juggernaut,” then I am armour-piercing.

What weaknesses do you see in Joyce?

We are studying him at the moment. The thing is I don’t talk anyone down or focus on weaknesses. I would never speak to the public on his disadvantages. I look at what he is good at and then we come up with the right gameplan.

You’re 39 and considered a veteran in the game. Are you still able to learn new things?

Even if I am looked at as a veteran in the sport I still learn each day. I learn one thing at a time one day at a time. The most important thing is adapting to make sure I can implement these new things in a fight.

What new things, specifically, have you been working on?

Lots of things we are trying. I am working on my conditioning mainly. This has had a lot of criticism in previous fights. I need to be ready to go the distance and work for the whole 36 minutes if needed.

Why didn’t you get the nod from the judges against Filip Hrgovic?

I don’t know what the judges saw. I’d love to ask one of them. I want to focus on improving on each three minutes and give as much as I can now going forward. Maybe they thought I didn’t work as hard as they wanted me to in order to win. But that’s on me; I will improve this.

How do you want to be remembered in the sport?

I want to be remembered as one of the best heavyweights out there from China. I want to be remembered as one of the top guys, not just an also-ran. There has never been a Chinese boxer at such a high level. I want to inspire the young fighters in China. I give my all in the gym everyday for them to be able to look up to me.

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewroyscribbles

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