There was never a doubt in Joe Joyce’s mind that he would run it back with Zhilei Zhang.
Far too much is at stake for him to pass on the opportunity to avenge his lone career defeat.
“Once I get this interim title back, I’m right back in place to fight for [the IBF, WBA and WBO] titles,” Joyce told BoxingScene.com. “It was very important to fight Zhang again right away. Once I regain that title, I’m right back in the mandatory position.”
The Zhang-Joyce rematch will take place September 23 at OVO Arena Wembley in London.
The bout will come five months after Joyce (15-1, 14KOs) suffered a sixth-round knockout defeat to China’s Zhang (25-1-1, 20KOs) on April 15 at Copper Box Arena. Joyce—a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist for Great Britain—entered the fight as a top-rated heavyweight contender and the interim WBO titlist. His desire to remain active against the best possible competition was partially attributable to the understanding of the long line of mandatory challengers.
Daniel Dubois (19-2, 18KOs)—whom Joyce knocked out in the tenth round of their November 2020 battle—was first in line as the WBA ‘Regular’ titlist but suffered a ninth-round knockout to WBA/IBF/WBO titlist Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14KOs) on August 26 in Wroclaw, Poland. Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic (16-0, 13KOs) is the IBF number-one contender, though circumstances beyond the sanctioning body’s control has delayed its plans to order the mandatory fight.
However that part shakes out, Joyce’s only goal is to end the year with his career back in its proper balance.
“Obviously it will be the IBF and Hrgovic next for the mandatories,” acknowledged Joyce. “Then after I regain the belt and my mandatory ranking, it will be my turn. That’s what makes the rematch so important. I needed it to get back in place to become heavyweight champion of the world.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox