IN a desperately disappointing year at heavyweight a 40-year-old Chinese southpaw and a 38-year-old “Juggernaut” have at least proved that competitive match ups can be made in the division. On Saturday night (September 23) in London Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce will face each other for the second time in five months.
Their first fight ended in a comprehensive victory for Zhang who used his southpaw stance to great effect, constantly pinging the seemingly unbreakable Brit with straight lefts. Midway through the sixth round an examination of Joyce’s busted up right eye from the ringside doctor prompted the fight to be called off. However, it would not be long before the Brit invoked his rematch clause in a bid to reignite his ambition of becoming heavyweight champion.
Boxing News contacted a number of figures within the industry to get their predictions on a fight where Zhang is the slight odd-on favourite with Bet365.
Tyler Denny (Middleweight contender) – It’s hard to look past Zhang after the first fight, he was dominant throughout. I hope I’m wrong and hopefully Joyce went into the first one overlooking him.
Billy Nelson (Trainer) – I hope Joe wins this rematch. If he does, he will have needed to improve dramatically from fight one where he never coped with the southpaw stance. I’ve always said an equally big guy gives Joe problems. I think it may be a repeat win for Zhang by stoppage.
Steve Wood (Manager/promoter) – I’m going for Zhang as I cannot see how Joyce can change his game plan.
Ben Shalom (Boxxer Founder/CEO) – Fascinating fight but backing Joyce to win it. Think he’s gone back to the drawing board with a game plan and will know what he’s up against this time. Didn’t seem to have any of the answers last time out but knows the importance of this fight in his career.
Arnie Farnell (Trainer) – I think Zhang again. Joyce didn’t have a clue how to combat the southpaw style and with his age now I don’t think he’s gonna learn that much to combat it. I hope I’m wrong because he’s British and he’s a top guy, but I can’t see it.
Callum Johnson (Cruiserweight contender) – I think Joe Joyce will stop him late on if he can get through the first 5-6 rounds. In the first fight Zhang was tiring and had Joyce not had the damage to the eye he would have got to him.
Sam Noakes (Lightweight contender) – It’s a tough one to call. Can’t ever rule Joyce out but if he doesn’t change his tactics, it’ll be a repeat of last time, but I hope he does it.
Richard Farnan (Cutman/trainer) – If Joe can get past the first four rounds and not take too much punishment, he can wear Zhang down.For me Joyce by late stoppage.
Chris Billam-Smith (WBO Cruiserweight champion) – I think Joyce stops him in the second half of the fight. Joe is smart enough to make adjustments early on to not to get hit as much. Providing he doesn’t take too much damage early on Joyce can get to Zhang and stop him later on in the fight.
Jack Bateson (Featherweight contender) – I don’t know how much Joe can change in a short space of time, especially with his style of fighting. Zhang may be that guy who has Joe’s number and the style to beat him. I hope not and Joe can find a way to get closer to him and get his shots off.
Carl Greaves (Promoter/trainer) – Joe was beaten convincingly last time and looked like he had no idea how to deal with a southpaw. Zhang couldn’t miss him with his straight left hand so unless Joyce has made big changes, I feel Zhang will be victorious again.
Gavin Gwynne (British lightweight champion) – I think it’s going to be a close fight but can see Zhang doing the job once again. He’s a very good southpaw and Joe struggles with them.
James Beech Jr (Featherweight contender) – Would have to go Zhang again. I don’t see what Joyce can do differently.
Chris Jenkins (Welterweight contender) – I think the fight goes the same way. Joyce is one strong man but in my opinion he’s too robotic and with the movement and hand speed of Zhang it’s going to be way too much again.
Sunny Edwards (IBF Flyweight champion) – I can see Joyce turning it around in the second fight. Even though he was caught heavy a lot in the first fight he was still soldiering forward and getting stronger. Zhang is dangerous, big, and calculated – but Joyce by late stoppage.
Tyrone McKenna (Irish welterweight contender) – I really like Joe Joyce as a fighter. I think he can adapt and make changes this time around. He had a good amateur pedigree, and we know he has a good IQ for the game. I can see him step it up and make the changes needed to get the win this time around.
Charlie Doig (Lightweight prospect) – I want Joyce to win but I don’t know how much of his game he can change in such a short time. He was well beat off Zhang before. I’m on the fence.
Matthew Macklin (Sky Sports Boxing pundit) – I think Joyce will be a lot more switched on this time and better prepared mentally for a really tough fight. That said, I’m not sure if there are many technical or tactical adjustments that Joyce can make. He comes in very square on and Zhang will keep walking him onto straight left hands. I think it will go longer and be more brutal. And I hope Joyce wins, but I see it going the same way.
Robbie Davies Jr (Super-lightweight contender) – I’d love Joe to avenge his only loss but I’m expecting Zhang to win again. Felt the southpaw stance and straight back hand and pure size caused Joyce a lot of problems. Can’t see Joyce being able to change much.
Charlie Edwards (Bantamweight contender) – I think it will go a similar way. I believe it will be closer, but I also think from the performance Zhang put in the first time he has Joe’s number.
Lerrone Richards (Light-heavyweight contender) – I genuinely believe on his day Joe Joyce can beat any heavyweight in the world. I see a Joe Joyce victory by points. I feel he might have taken Zhang lightly the first time and will approached the rematch a lot more serious.
Paul Butler (Bantamweight contender) – I think you will see a better Joyce, but I think he really struggled with the southpaw backhand last time. Zhang is a very underrated fighter. I see a Zhang points win this time around.
Joe Hughes (Former European super-lightweight champion) – I think Joyce had become overconfident in his ability to take shots last time, his chin may have held up, but his face didn’t. The most likely result is another Zhang victory in a similar manner to last time.
Tony Sims (Trainer) – I would really like Joyce to make the adjustments necessary from the first fight. Whether he’s capable of doing that remains to be seen. I do think Zhang is an underestimated fighter. He’s a massive heavyweight southpaw with fast hands and a very smart boxing brain. My heart is for Joyce to win but I think Zhang will beat him again.
Peter Fury (Trainer) – Joe Joyce has to box a totally different fight this time. Use his jab and not let Zhang win the war of jabs early on. Joyce can win this if he’s smart. Fifty-fifty still. If Joyce isn’t 100 per cent he will lose again.
Gary Jacobs (Former European welterweight champion) – Joyce to win this time. He has to come out and out box him. If he does that he wins, if he gets caught up in a toe-to-toe fight it will be the same result as last time.
Jason Cunningham (Super-bantamweight contender) – It’d have to be a much better display from Joyce defensively especially to avoid that backhand. If he can do that and apply the pressure to Zhang maybe, he can turn it around.
Frank Smith (Matchroom Boxing CEO & Director) – I think we will see the same result again.
Jack Cullen (British super-middleweight champion) – I’m going round four knockout for Joyce.
Gamal Yafai (Super-bantamweight contender) – I think Joyce will win this time, maybe by stoppage but I’m thinking points. Last fight he was at his worse and Zhang was good. He’s going to be much better this time and I expect him to win.
River Wilson-Bent (Middleweight contender) – Joyce stoppage. I think it will be a great fight for four rounds then Joyce will take him into deep waters and get him out of there in round eight.
Josh Campbell (Super-lightweight prospect) – I think Zhang will win again. It’s 50-50 but he beat him the first time so his confidence will be high going into the second fight.
Sean McGoldrick (British bantamweight champion) – I think Joyce beats him. He’s very determined and I think he finds a way this time. I don’t think he performed his best last time. Joe is more than capable of beating Zhang.
Kieran Smith (Middleweight contender) – I have to veer towards Zhang again. His confidence will be high, and he knows he can hurt and beat Joe. I think Joe relies on his toughness and Zhang has the power to nullify that.
Jordan Gill (Featherweight contender) – Joyce needs to make some big changes win. Is Joe too late in the game to make the changes necessary to make Zhang and pick his moments to make him pay? I fear so, which makes me lean towards a similar result.
Martin Harkin (Welterweight contender) – It depends what weight Joyce comes in at for the rematch. He has a chance of winning, but I see Zhang winning on points.
Thomas Essomba (European bantamweight champion) – I predict Joe Joyce will win. Last time just wasn’t his night but I believe he will learn from that loss and take the victory.
Kyran Jones (Super-middleweight prospect) – My prediction for the fight would be for Zhang to win again either on points or a late stoppage. I believe that styles make fights and Zhang’s technical ability, and boxing IQ has the upper hand over Joyce.
Andy Lee (Former WBO middleweight champion) – Joyce has to fight a very smart, tactical fight but whether he’s capable of it I’m not sure. It’s a really evenly balanced fight. I favour Zhang but if Joyce can make the adjustments to win the fight it’ll be a very impressive turnaround.
Liam Davies (European super-bantamweight champion) – I struggle seeing Joyce overcoming Zhang in this fight as much as I want to. I see this going to Zhang on points this time around.
Chris Bourke (Super-bantamweight contender) – I think Joyce is going to win by late stoppage. He will have learned from the last fight and tighten up his defence. His work-rate will catch up to Zhang in the second half of the fight and he could get him out of there.
Samuel Antwi (British super-welterweight champion) – I’m on the fence with this fight. Zhang has the experience to pull it off again, but that loss for Joyce could have reignited the fire in his belly and sees him come in with bad intentions.
Iain Wilson (Promoter) – I can see it going the same way as the first fight, just in later rounds this time around.
Alex Arthur (Former WBO super-featherweight champion) – The fight wasn’t that long ago so I’m struggling to see what Joe Joyce can do different. I think it might be a repeat scenario. I see it going the same way.
Kevin Maree (Manager) – Zhang stylistically is a nightmare for Joyce. He constantly kept moving Joyce the first time and I can’t see Joyce speeding his feet up enough to cope. I hope I’m wrong, but I think it goes the same way.
Tony Bellew (Former WBC Cruiserweight champion) – If Joyce’s resistance isn’t gone then he wins as he outlasts Zhang but if his resistance has gone which is his biggest asset, then he’s done for inside six rounds.
Lyndon Arthur (Light-heavyweight contender) – I think Joyce stops him. He would have stopped him last fight if it carried on. I think Zhang slows down towards later rounds.
Johnny Nelson (Sky Sports Boxing pundit) – I think Joe wins the return on points. His first mistake was the mistake that most of his opponents have done with him… though he could out fight and out punch Zhang. But the mistake they make is punching themselves out instead of being smart with their work rate. And this is exactly what Joe did with Zhang. I believe he’s learned his lesson.
Martin Crossan (Super-lightweight prospect) – I think Joyce gets it done this time.
Jack Flatley (Middleweight contender) – I’d say Zhang as it’s a bit quick for Joyce to be going back into that fight.
Troy Williamson (Super-welterweight contender) – I’m going for a Joe Joyce revenge win.
Joel McIntyre (Light-heavyweight contender) – I like Joyce a lot and I hope he wins big because I don’t think a third match can be sold and I want him to avenge the last mishap. Joyce possibly on points.
Phil Jeffries (Promoter/manager) – It’s a fight Joe’s got to win to open the door to bigger paydays but if Zhilei performs like the last fight it’s going to be a real hard night’s work for Joe. But I am going for Joe.
Otto Wallin (Heavyweight contender) – It will be interesting to see how Joyce comes back from the loss. Either he’s learned and comes back hard, or he’s lost some confidence and his sense of not being able to get hurt. If he hesitates, I think he’ll get stopped again. I think Joyce’s best chance is to be confident and take it to Zhang.
Jon Pegg (Trainer/manager) – I think Joyce will change his style to get the win just like Joshua vs Ruiz. And just like that fight he’ll get a points win and won’t look comfortable or natural doing it.
Kal Yafai (Bantamweight contender) – Joe Joyce to win the rematch. He wasn’t himself in the first fight and came in too light. I think he’ll be determined to put it right and do it in the mid rounds.
Mark Chamberlain (Lightweight contender) – I think that it could be the same result as before. Zhang is too big and too accurate for Joyce.
Fabio Wardley (British heavyweight champion) – It will be a different fight this time. Joyce and his team will look at the adjustments needed to deal with Zhang. We all know that over the distance Zhang has shown endurance problems in the past and we all know Joyce does have a strong tank and a strong engine. He’ll come on well and strong in the second half of the fight.
George Davey (Super-welterweight prospect) – I predict Zhang will win. Not sure if Joe is capable of changing anything.
Denzel Bentley (British middleweight champion) – I’m going for repeat again. I think if Zhang turns up 100 per cent, he beats Joyce again. Zhang is too quick and too composed.
Mark Dunlop (Manager/promoter) – Joe Joyce knows his career is on the line and will have made the necessary changes and implement them and will overturn the first fight with a close but unanimous points victory with clever boxing.
Cyrus Pattinson (Welterweight prospect) – I’m gonna say Joyce. I think he would have learned so much from the first fight which he will have worked so hard to put right this time around.
Quaise Khademi (Super-flyweight contender) – I have Zhang winning on points because he has more time into training into his boxing and keep Joyce away.
Result: Zhang 32 votes, Joyce 24 votes, Undecided seven votes.
And for even more industry predictions gathered together by BN press play on the video below.
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