Some fights you have to try to sell for some reason or another, or try to explain why or how they could be appealing to the average fan. Joe Joyce vs Zhilei Zhang isn’t one of those fights.
Two big old hosses are going to square up on Saturday in London and bang away until someone’s knocked out or we’ve completed 12 brutal rounds. That’s the long and the short of it.
So who wins?
Scott Christ (31-16)
I want to start off by saying that John lost his standings lead by picking Jessie Magdaleno over Raymond Ford last week. He probably won’t acknowledge this himself. And I know what you might say, “That’s bold talk for a last-place fat man,” but I was also the only person who said Shakur Stevenson would get a stoppage win, so obviously I’m a secret genius.
There are three heavyweights in the world I’d pick against Joe Joyce right now, and they are Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk, and Deontay Wilder. I would be unsure about Usyk on the style matchup, and semi-unsure about Wilder on the style matchup, but betting on Wilder’s power has been a pretty good bet thus far in his career, and Usyk is an unparalleled technician at this weight.
Zhang is not a great technician and I don’t think he wins this slugfest, but he does have a chance, because he’s a fellow refrigerator who hits hard. I think he probably has the better one-punch power of the two of them. He may win some rounds. He may dent Joyce. But he won’t break him. Joyce’s pressure and incredible gas tank will make the difference in the end, but I think we hear the scores, too. Joyce UD-12
Wil Esco (34-13)
It seems inevitable that the 37-year-old Juggernaut will ironically collide with a brick wall that he can’t run through, but I don’t think it’ll be this particular fight. Joyce isn’t particularly fast or elusive, but the pressure he applies has been a real issue for the opponents he’s faced thus far. I expect that to be more of the same going against Zhilei Zhang, who also isn’t a fast or elusive fighter, nor defensive wizard. But that’s also what’s going to make this fight a pretty fun one while it lasts. Both are two big men that don’t mind throwing bombs, and they’ll both be in the line of fire for the duration.
But considering Zhang is coming off a loss, and being 39-years-old himself, I expect Joyce enters this fight with less inherent doubts and that lack of hesitation is going to allow him to get off first and more authoritatively. Maybe we get a bit of a cagey opening round because these are two big men that can crack, but once things heat up a little I think Joyce takes over and puts Zhang away. Joyce TKO-6
John Hansen (35-12)
If you’re left-handed, Easter was last weekend, and I hope anyone who observed the date had a wonderful holiday. But, for the Orthodox, Easter 2023 falls on this Sunday. And the timing couldn’t be more appropriate.
One of the traditions of the day is cracking eggs. Everyone takes a hard-boiled egg dyed blood red, and proceeds to smash them against each other until just one surviving egg escapes unbroken. It’s a Conor Benn erotic dream come true, and a metaphor for the sequence of fights that led up to this Joyce vs Zhang matchup.
These guys are going to smash against each other until one of them breaks. There’s little chance this fight plays out any other way. And, while I think a very skilled man might finesse and technique his way past Joyce, I don’t believe anyone — other than maybe full force Deonay Wilder — can break him. I thought Daniel Dubois might do it, but that fight convinced me that Joe Joyce is the toughest egg in the heavyweight basket.
Yes, I’ve seen his amateur fight against Sergey Kuzmin, and I have no idea how putting headgear on top of that adamantium skull ended up with Joyce knocked down. Obviously, he’s not unbeatable, but he is arguably the closest thing to indestructible in the sport today. Zhang’s obviously tough as hell, too, but he’s a slightly older and slightly worse Joyce-style fighter. Maybe Joyce struggles fighting a southpaw for the first time since his fourth pro fight? Crazy things can happen when big boys square off, no doubt. But, give me the Juggernaut. Joyce TKO-10
Patrick Stumberg (36-11)
You just gotta feel bad for the people who fight Joyce; “The Juggernaut” is the kid on the playground with the everything-proof shield who ruins make-believe time for everyone. Zhang is huge, powerful, technically adept, and possessed of bizarrely fast hands for a man of his stature, but Joyce has consistently proven able to stare those sorts of weapons in the face and say “Nah.”
It really sucks for Zhang, whose career didn’t pick up steam until the last dregs of his athletic prime and who really should be behind Daniel Dubois for a shot at Oleksandr Usyk. He shouldn’t have to fight through the boxing equivalent of getting trapped in a grain silo to reach the last shot at glory his body can handle. But, well, he was the B-side against Hrgovic and that’s how things play out for B-sides. Joyce does his usual thing, absorbing inhuman amounts of punishment for a few rounds until his body attack and the energy expenditure required to repeatedly drive Zhang’s giant fists into Joyce’s face turn “Big Bang” into a sufficiently stationary target for the killshot. Joyce TKO-8
Mikaela Mayer vs Christina Linardatou
- Scott: Mayer UD-10
- Wil: Mayer UD-10
- John: Mayer UD-10
- Patrick: Mayer UD-10