JOE JOYCE WILL defend his WBO Interim World Heavyweight title against the Chinese giant Zhilei Zhang at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday, 15 April, live on BT Sport.
It will be a first defence of the belt for the ‘Big Juggernaut’ Joyce, 15-0 (14 KOs), who put himself first in line for a shot at the full WBO title with a thrilling victory over Joseph Parker in September of last year in Manchester.
“This is another cracker of a card that should be in keeping with the special night we all just enjoyed at Wembley,” said promoter Frank Warren. “We want to keep Big Joe busy while the heavyweight title scene unfolds but there can be no easy touches in a defence of his WBO Interim title. Zhilei Zhang is anything but an easy touch, he is a formidable powerhouse who can consider himself unlucky not to be still an unbeaten contender following his fight with Filip Hrgovic last year.
“Zhang being a southpaw ticks a significant box for Joe, with Usyk being a left-hander and Tyson carrying the ability to adopt either stance. That is what we want next for Joe and hopefully it will be a huge all-British collision against Tyson.”
The undercard will be announced in due course with a host of Queensberry’s established and rising stars to be added to the bill.
With the current unified champion Oleksandr Usyk expected to fight for the status of undisputed against WBC ruler Tyson Fury this year, the 37-year-old Joyce will bolster his own heavyweight credentials by taking on the 6ft 6″ southpaw who resides in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
‘Big Bang’ Zhang, 24-1-1 (19 KOs) last saw action over in Jeddah in August when he fought in an IBF final eliminator against the Croatian Filip Hrgovic. The 39-year-old was declared the loser via the judges’ scorecards, but many commentators believed him to have won after dominating the early stages of the fight.
The Chinese fighter now gets the opportunity to put himself in the world title frame once again on what will be a first professional visit to the capital for the southpaw.
“This is a great fight for boxing and a great opportunity for Zhilei,” said Terry Lane, Zhang’s manager. “Once again, he takes on a challenge that many are running from. There will be fireworks in London on 15 April.”