Joe Joyce came in a big favorite against Zhilei Zhang, but his iron chin couldn’t make up for having normal flesh and poor defense, as Zhang pounded him with left hands until the fight was stopped in round six, giving Zhang a major upset win.
Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KO) beat the right eye of Joyce (15-1, 14 KO) shut over five-and-a-half rounds, and the 37-year-old Joyce is going to have to take some lumps outside the ring, too, with reaction to his performance.
“Not a chance in hell would Joyce beat AJ,” said retired fighter Darren Reay. “None, even an AJ (who’s) gun shy. (Joshua) wouldn’t miss with a right hand.”
“He’s literally stood in line for Zhang’s left hand constantly,” said trainer Dave Coldwell. “Zhang can literally close his eyes and pop it out to land.”
Trainer and analyst Teddy Atlas, though, took a somewhat more optimistic approach.
“Silver lining in every dark cloud, and for Joyce it might be that this poor performance will now entice Joshua to fight him,” he said. “And if it does, you never know, if Joyce lands a right hand on that at-times porcelain chin of Joshua’s, could be broken dishes.”
Not a chance in hell would Joyce Beat AJ. None even a AJ gun shy. He wouldn’t miss with a right hand— Darren Reay (@DarrenReay007) April 15, 2023
He’s literally stood in line for Zhang’s left hand constantly.— Dave Coldwell (@davidcoldwell) April 15, 2023
Zhang can literally close his eyes and pop it out to land. #JoyceZhang
Joyce losing all that weight doesnt look to be paying dividends #lighternotbetter— Chris Algieri (@ChrisAlgieri) April 15, 2023
Got zhang 11/2 to win and 7/1 by KO in play after 30 seconds. Doesn’t matter how good your chin is, you take too many big shots the face is gonna get busted up. Can’t get hit that easy at that level against punchers. Brave as anything, Joyce. Hope he’s ok and the eye heals up.— Paul Smith (@PaulSmithJnr) April 15, 2023
Great performance by zhang he was excellent from the start can see his pedigree but I still believe Joyce losing a stone in weight didn’t help him in there tonight don’t know if it would’ve changed anything but I just think it was a wrong move— Enzo Maccarinelli (@theRealEnzoMac) April 15, 2023
Maby Joe came in too light, didn't look himself from the start to be honest— Ohara Davies (@OharaDavies) April 15, 2023
I don't think anyone saw this coming— Ohara Davies (@OharaDavies) April 15, 2023
Zhang is a clever fighter. Created a comfortable environment before making Joe pay, Rinsed and repeated. Neglected the body which may have taken Joes work rate away from him down the stretch… if it got there.— Ben Davison (@BenDavison_) April 15, 2023
Gutted for Joe, of course, he’s a Topman, He’ll be back.
Southpaws eh— Karriss Artingstall (@karriss_imogen) April 15, 2023
Nasty eye there! Hoping Joyce is ok & speedy recovery.— Shane McGuigan (@McGuigans_Gym) April 15, 2023
Zhang was calm with his attacks & performed great.
Great call from Howard Foster
Can we take a moment to appreciate the strength of Zhang’s coach. Just picked him up like a baby after winning.— Ramla Ali (@ramlaali) April 15, 2023