Joe Joyce looks to take the final step towards a world title shot this Saturday night at the Copper Box Arena, as he takes on dangerous Chinese banger Zhilei Zhang over a scheduled twelve rounds, with the Brit’s WBO Interim heavyweight title on the line.
BT Sport televise Joyce vs Zhang live in the UK, whilst ESPN+ broadcast the card in the USA.
Joyce (15-0, 14 KOs) has made swift progress since turning over after winning silver at the 2016 Olympics, and for good reason.
At 37, the Putney man doesn’t have time on his side, and he has stopped all in the paid ranks bar Bryant Jennings, who he went twelve rounds with in 2019.
After knocking Daniel Dubois out in ten in late 2020, the ‘Juggernaut’ has climbed the rankings, stopping Carlos Takam in six and then Christian Hammer in four last July, before facing an acid test against Joseph Parker last September.
Joyce is hittable, but doesn’t stay hit, and he wore down the New Zealander, eventually prevailing and winning the interim world title in eleven rounds.
He now faces Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs), a fellow silver medallist at the 2008 Olympics, and no slouch in the age stakes at 39.
‘Big Bang’ also started his professional career well, but faded badly against Jerry Forrest in 2021 and clung on for a majority draw.
He banked two straight early wins after, and in his last contest, he troubled the highly-touted Filip Hrgovic several times on the way to a contentious points loss.
Prediction: Joyce looks on a mission to challenge at the very top, and Zhang looks a good opponent for the ‘Juggernaut’ to get the world title shot he craves. The Londoner should be able to get to him before the halfway mark for a stoppage win.
Mayer moves up to face Linardatou
Mikaela Mayer (17-1, 5 KOs) comes back after a loss, with her IBF and WBO super featherweight belts going in a points defeat to Alycia Baumgardner last October.
Prediction: The American moves up to lightweight, and should handily outscore former world champion, Christina Linardatou (14-2, 6 KOs) in their contest set for ten.
Bentley battles Smith
Denzel Bentley (17-2-1, 14 KOs) returns after a spirited defeat to WBO middleweight champion, Janibek Alimkhanuly last time out.
Prediction: The 28-year-old should defend his British middleweight title with a stoppage win against Kieran Smith (18-1, 7 KOs), who was halted by Troy Williamson in his sole career defeat.
Sam Noakes (10-0, 10 KOs) is a massive talent, and the Kent man can bank another early win, and defend his Commonwealth and WBC International Silver lightweight titles against Karthik Sathish Kumar (10-0, 4 KOs).
In six rounders, precocious talent Moses Itauma (2-0, 2 KOs) should win inside schedule again, this time against the never before stopped Kostiantyn Dovbyshchenko (9-12-1, 6 KOs).
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Sonny Liston Ali (5-0) can take a points win against Richard Helm (1-14-1, 1 KO) at welterweight, and Eithan James (10-0) can do the same against Georgi Velichkov (3-12, 3 KOs), also at welterweight.
In four round action, light heavyweight Freezy Macbones (1-0, 1 KO) will likely need the distance to see off Darryl Sharp (7-104-1, 1 KO), and Joel Kodua (1-0) can outscore Dale Arrowsmith (5-76-3, 1 KO) at middleweight.