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Bryant Jennings prepares to enter the Joe Joyce dimension

Joe Joyce
Action Images/Reuters/Andrew Boyers
Risky Jennings match can pay off for Joe Joyce, writes Daniel Herbert

JOE JOYCE continues his accelerated learning curve when he tackles Bryant Jennings in an intriguing 12-rounder on the Daniel Dubois vs Nathan Gorman undercard at the O2 on Saturday (July 13).

No title is attached (at the time of writing), but it’s a step up in competition for the Olympic silver medallist, with Philadelphia’s Jennings having gone the distance against Wladimir Klitschko for the world heavyweight title.

That was in April 2015, since when Jennings has lost twice more – both before the final bell, when Cuba’s Luis Ortiz stopped him in seven rounds (December 2015) and Colombia’s Oscar Rivas halted him in the 12th and final round in January. Rivas was Jennings’ most recent fight and saw the American fall apart under fire after a slow-paced affair.

It meant Jennings has lost three of his last eight, and while he’s been mixing in good company, he has clearly found his level. At 34 (a year older than Joyce) he may now be at the stage where it’s about securing the best paydays rather than aiming for a second world title bid.

Yet Joyce would do well not to assume Jennings is all out of ambition. The Philly man has good skills, although a lack of size and devastating punch limits his chances against the elite. He tends to hang in there for a few rounds with good opponents, but not beat them.

Joe Joyce
Joe Joyce celebrates victory with an aerial flip Action Images/Adam Holt

“I’m not here to lie down,” he insisted. “I know a win puts me back in the mix. Do I want to fight a nobody or Joe Joyce? It’s high risk and big reward. I’m always confident.”

This is a smart match for Joyce, who’s now with Frank Warren’s Queensberry operation, having turned pro less than two years ago with Hayemaker.

Winner of all nine fights inside the distance, Joyce is moving quickly because he turns 34 in September and has a style relying on physical attributes – strength, stamina – that may erode sooner rather than later.

Yes, Joe presents a big target because he comes forward all the time and doesn’t move much in any part of his body, head or trunk. But while he’s one-dimensional, he’s very good at his one dimension. You don’t go as close as he did to the Olympic gold medal without having something to offer.

There’s always the chance he might get clobbered by a big punch and fall apart in a shattering defeat. (This happened several times as an amateur, although not in his peak 2014-16 period). Better to reach world title contention earlier rather than later, allowing more time to rebuild if needed, the thinking goes.

He’s done everything asked of him so far, winning the Commonwealth crown in just his fourth pro fight (KO 2 over Jamaica’s Lenroy Thomas), and stopping Canada’s former world title challenger Bermane Stiverne in six rounds in his eighth.

Joyce presents a big target because he comes forward all the time and doesn’t move much. But while he’s one-dimensional, he’s very good at his one dimension

He’s also made trainer switches, going from Ismael Salas in Las Vegas to Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, California, before settling on Adam Booth in the UK. Booth has worked with heavyweights in David Haye and Mike Perez, and although Joyce is very different from either of those, Booth knows how to formulate a winning gameplan.

Worth noting is that while the 6ft 6ins Joyce is 3ins taller, it’s Jennings who has the longer reach (by 4ins).

Reckons Joyce, “I’m superior in stature, even if he has a freaky reach. I’ve had a look at what he brings and we have started to dissect his performances on where I can capitalise.

“There are going to be some heavy hits. I throw a lot of punches, throw them with force, and Bryant is going to get run over.”

Bryant Jennings
Jennings may not be a tall heavyweight but he has a long reach

Jennings believes his chance lies in the Londoner’s supposed defensive frailties, saying: “He’s going to have shots coming right back at him and, the last time I checked, his defence is not as good. He can catch every punch – with his jaw!”

Yet Jennings is not a big hitter at top level, and at around the 225lbs mark he’ll be conceding 40lbs to Joyce. Expect Joe to wear him down with relentless, exciting attacks until Jennings crumbles to defeat in about eight rounds.

British middleweight champion Liam Williams gets an international foe after six consecutive domestic opponents when he tackles France’s Karim  Achour over 12 rounds for the vacant WBC Silver bauble.

From Clydach Vale in Wales, Williams is 20-2-1 (15) with both losses to Liam Smith down at light-middle. Now 27, he looks strong up at 160lbs, having dispatched Mark Heffron (rsf 10) and Joe Mullender (ko 2) in British title bouts.

But he will probably have to go the distance to beat Achour, whose five defeats (against 27 wins, four early, and a draw) have all come on points – including a 10-rounder against Martin Murray in 2012 and a 12 against huge puncher David Lemieux last year.

Also boxing for minor titles, but over 10 rounds, are prospects Archie Sharp and Sunny Edwards.

Welling’s Sharp, 15-0 (8), defends his WBO super-featherweight belt against Cambuslang challenger Jordan McCorry, 18-5-1 (4), who in March lasted into the ninth round against Sam Bowen for the British crown. Skilful Sharp can win on points.

Edwards, from Croydon and the brother of WBC flyweight king Charlie, contests the vacant IBF International super-fly strap against Mexico’s Hiram Gallardo, 12-2-2 (4). The visitor has lost only in early-career four-rounders, but the 11-0 (4) Edwards has the skill to triumph on the cards.

 The Verdict Joyce can move closer to a world title shot with victory over fringe contender Jennings.

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