AFTER weeks of speculation, it was confirmed earlier today that Joe Joyce will face Zhilei Zhang in a rematch on September 23 at the Ovo Arena in London.
Their second fight will take place five months on from their first encounter which Zhang won so impressively. Before their clash on April 15 at the Copper Box Arena Joyce carried an air of invincibility. ‘The Juggernaut’ was unbeaten in 15 fights and his performances and iron-like chin helped to build a fearsome reputation.
Zhang needed a win to re-establish himself as a genuine heavyweight contender. The Chinese southpaw was coming off a narrow points defeat to Filip Hrgovic where many believed he had done enough to win.
Joyce’s reputation soon began to take a battering against Zhang. Round after round the Brit was unable to do little to counteract his opponent’s offence which eventually did enough damage to win. In round six an examination of Joyce’s bloodied and damaged right eye from the ringside physician was all she wrote, and the bout was called off by referee Howard Foster.
“I’m coming back to take back what’s mine,” declared Joyce in today’s announcement.
“September 23 I am leaving everything in that ring. No compromises. No underestimating my opponent. Nothing, but a win.
“Last time out I lost my undefeated professional record. It was hard to take. But after the dust settled, all that will do is make me better. I’ve learned lessons. I’m ready. And I am coming for everything.”
Zhang could have been facing Tyson Fury after the 40-year-old was picked out as a potential summer opponent by Fury’s co-promoter Bob Arum. Joyce had chosen to invoke his rematch clause, however. Should he suffer a second loss then any hope of fighting the likes of Fury, Joshua, Wilder and Usyk could be out of sight.
“I created history last time,” said Zhang. “And I believe the best way to inherit history is to create new ones. I look at the rematch as if it was a new fight; I look at Joe Joyce as if I never fought him before. I started from zero and this is the new self.”
Joyce’s promoter Frank Warren acknowledged that the rematch is high stakes for his fighter.
“Joe will acknowledge that Zhilei did a number on him at the Copper Box, and he has a lot to work on to put it right,” said Warren.
“Victory in September will put Joe right back in the frame to fight whoever emerges victorious out of the current champion Oleksandr Usyk and his next challenger, Daniel Dubois.
“This is why the stakes are so incredibly high for both fighters and I hope and expect that Wembley (Ovo Arena) will be packed to the rafters for such a significant heavyweight match.”