Zhilei Zhang apparently had a little bird or two in Las Vegas keeping an eye on Joe Joyce.
Last Saturday night, China’s Zhang dispatched England’s Joyce with a brutal knockout in the third round of their 12-round rematch at OVO Arena Wembley in London. Five months earlier, in April, Zhang stunned oddsmakers by dominating Joyce and handing him his first career defeat with a sixth-round stoppage.
Now the southpaw Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) is looking to parlay the biggest win of his career into a title shot against one of the division’s champions, WBC titlist Tyson Fury, who, like Zhang, is backed by Queensberry Promotions.
Some viewers, including Queensberry’s Frank Warren, argued that Joyce (15-2, 14 KOs) had shown improvement in the first couple of rounds of the rematch.
But Terry Lane, a co-manager for Zhang, revealed in an interview after the fight that his team had already anticipated Joyce’s tweaks well ahead of time. Lane said he had “spies” monitoring what Joyce was working on in his training camp in Las Vegas. Joyce is trained by the veteran Las Vegas-based Cuban trainer Ismael Salas.
Lane also expressed surprise by Joyce’s weight gain from the first fight, saying it nullified the changes he made to his game plan. Joyce (15-2, 14 KOs) weighed in at a career-high 281 pounds, 25 pounds more than in the first fight. Zhang weighed 287 pounds for the rematch.
“We were going to bring down the guard (of Joyce),” Lane told Boxing Social. “We knew he was going to move to his left. We had spies on him in Las Vegas. We knew that was all they were working on.
“If you’re moving to your left but you gain 25 pounds, that’s not really gonna—you’re not gonna turn into Muhammad Ali in there. Listen, we were prepared for all that. Nothing was a surprise tonight.”
“We were shocked at how heavy he was,” Lane added.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.