British heavyweight Joe Joyce was sensationally knocked out in the third round by Zhilei Zhang in London, leaving his dream of securing a world-title shot – and perhaps his career – in tatters.
Joyce once again struggled against the power of ‘Big Bang’ Zhang before a thunderous counter right hook floored the Londoner at Wembley’s OVO Arena.
The 38-year-old admirably rose to his feet on the count of 10 as the referee waved off the contest. Joyce looked stunned. Moments later, he sat on his stool receiving oxygen.
The result comes five months after 40-year-old Zhang’s shock sixth-round stoppage win over the previously undefeated Joyce.
The Chinese boxer retains the WBO ‘interim’ title and mandatory challenger status to unified world champion Oleksandr Usyk.
“Like I said before the fight, it’s going to end sooner than the first one,” Zhang said on TNT Sports.
“Joe, I like him, I respect him and I will let everyone witness Chinese power again.”
A distraught Joyce left the ring without conducting a post-fight interview, as a jubilant Zhang embraced his team.
Joyce has now lost twice in 17 professional outings, while Zhang extends his record to 25 wins, with one defeat and one draw.
Zhang makes shorter work of Joyce in rematch
A must-win fight to keep his world-title hopes alive ended in heartbreak for Joyce, once again in brutal fashion.
As challenger, Joyce walked to the ring first. His music began with Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ and soon turned into a vastly different vibe – a rap song with the chorus “You don’t want to war with big Juggernaut”.
With pockets of travelling fans waving China flags scattered around the arena, Zhang made his entrance. The 2008 Olympic silver medallist became an even bigger star in his home country after beating Joyce first time around.
April’s bout at London’s Copper Box Arena was a beatdown from Zhang, with Joyce’s right eye swollen shut when the referee halted the contest.
But after all the build-up to Saturday’s rematch, it was a quiet opener with neither man throwing anything of note.
The fight came alive in the second. Zhang landed a one-two combination before unleashing a ferocious straight left which pierced through Joyce’s guard.
It was very much a case of repeat, rather than revenge. Just like the first fight, each time ‘Big Bang’ landed, Joyce looked staggered, hurt and uncomfortable.
Having weighed 22lbs lighter than Zhang in the first fight, Joyce came in at a career-heaviest 20st 1lb for rematch, but the added weight made no difference.
Joyce had started the third round well, with good footwork and movement. But a terrific counter right hook from Zhang, sweetly set up by a jab, ended proceedings.
The home fighter was stunned, looking helplessly at his team. He once again came unstuck against the hard-hitting southpaw, and looked a shadow of the fighter who knocked out 14 of his first 15 opponents.
‘Do you want me to shut Tyson Fury up?’
After winning silver at Tokyo 2020, Olympian Joyce was fast-tracked in the paid ranks on a mission to win a world-title in super quick time.
But with age not on his side nor a clear path back to mandatory challenger status, hopes of becoming world champion are now fading.
“It’s very disappointing,” Queensberry promoter Frank Warren said. “First couple of rounds he got it right and he was moving left.
“Then he went toe-to-toe and got caught. If he continued to do what he was doing past five or six rounds then it would have been interesting. He got caught with a really good shot.”
Zhang is now in prime position to fight Usyk, or whoever the champion is when the WBO mandatory is called.
But with his shot unlikely to happen until middle of next year at the earliest, he has now set his sights on the WBC champion.
“I want to ask the audience a question. Do you want to see me shut Tyson Fury up?”, Zhang said.