On the 15th of April, Joe Joyce will take on Zhang Zhilei in a bout for the interim WBO heavyweight title. Many experts and armchair enthusiasts are still wondering how good Joe Joyce is and will his chin stand up to Zhang Zhilei’s heavy punches?
Well, I look at the Juggernaut Joe Joyce in detail and analyse his strengths and weaknesses alongside a prediction for his career.
Who is Joe Joyce?
By way of an introduction, Joe Joyce is a boxer competing at heavyweight with an extensive amateur boxing career. His chief highlight of that amateur career being the silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.
He then turned professional later than usual at the age of 31, an age where most boxers are entering their prime or even past their best fighting days.
However, Joyce impressed from early on in his professional career which has seen him take on a repertoire of medium to elite level boxers. With only 15 fights under his belt, he has already beaten 2 former World Heavyweight Champions.
Impressive to say the least. Joe Joyce entering professional boxing at 31 has had to fast track his career because time is not on his side. Whereas most boxers will have padded out their boxing record with journeymen for the first 10 or so fights, Joyce doesn’t have that luxury.
What are Joe Joyce’s Strengths?
There are three key strengths Joyce has that have allowed him to progress quickly through the heavyweight rankings, his punching power, his jab, and his chin.
Joyce is a boxer that is almost exactly the same as George Foreman in his comeback years with a couple of areas he still needs to improve on. Joyce cuts off the ring well, keeps coming forward and slugs away until his opposition crumbles.
He eats a lot of punches going in and has so far stood up to some big punches, leading many to comment about Joyce’s granite chin.
Finally, Joyce has a great jab. He lands it cleanly, and it is always stiff, often dazing his opponents enough to swing in his big right hand.
For boxing fans, the similarities to Foreman are uncanny. Foreman was known for the same plodding hard-hitting style and granite chin.
What are Joyces Weaknesses?
Joyce has a couple of weaknesses, which are notable, but not necessarily enough to undo him, providing his chin holds up.
First, Joyce has poor defensive ability. He rarely catches incoming punches, and his movement is sluggish. His opposition so far hasn’t been strong enough to crack that granite chin, but you have to wonder whether Joyce would hold up to a Deontay Wilder right hand.
Joyce’s footwork is average and against fast boxers it is easy to imagine him being outmanoeuvred. In fact, as an amateur Joyce fought and lost to current unified Heavyweight Champion Oleksandr Usyk.
Joyce just couldn’t move effectively against the lighter, faster Usyk and was outpointed.
Can Joe Joyce Improve on His Weaknesses?
There is a common phrase that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and that is probably the case with Joe Joyce. He is never going to be the slick and fast technical boxer – nor does he need to be.
He should however try to tighten up his defense, and I have always thought Joyce could benefit from the cross-arm defense Foreman adopted in his comeback career.
Keeping his arms crossed in front of him in this way allows him to catch more punches, push his opponents to open distance and keep them off balance.
Joe Joyce vs Zhang Zilei Fight Prediction
They say styles make fights and Zhang Zilei is perfect for Joe Joyce. Zhilei will undoubtedly stand in front of Joyce and trade blows.
Providing Joyce’s chin holds up, Zhang will be taken out in short order – probably knocked out inside 6 rounds.
What Next for Joe Joyce?
Joyce really needs to position himself as a mandatory for one of the Heavyweight belts and hopefully, he gets a title fight in his next fight.
If Usyk is champion still, Joyce will have a hard night chasing the Ukrainian around the ring. Unless Usyk makes a Michael Moorer style mistake and gets into a brawl with Joyce it will be a very close fight.
Joyce may just edge it, having lost the first time he fought Usyk and making adjustments to close down the gap and finish the fight this time. Usyk probably won’t be able to stand up against any of the divisions heavy-hitters and I can imagine Joyce winning by a shock knockout.
If he hasn’t adjusted, Usyk will outpoint him comfortably.
If Not Usyk – Who?
There are a number of heavyweights Joyce could fight comfortably and get a big payday. I can see him going through the likes of Derek Chisora, Dillian Whyte and Anthony Joshua with relative ease.
There are also heavyweights Joyce should try and stay away from if he wants to keep his unbeaten record intact. I can’t see him beating Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder, with both having great speed and punching power.
In the case of Wilder, I can see Joyce being beaten in a few rounds.
Perhaps a match-up with Andy Ruiz or Luis Ortiz would be interesting for Joyce and both would pose a big challenge – especially Ruiz who has fast counterpunches.
Regardless, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are approaching the end of their careers and I don’t think either has more than a few years left in the tank. Joe Joyce is The Juggernaut and I can see him boxing for another 5-7 years comfortably.
With the only major threats to him sure to retire over the next few years, Joyce could be very dominant indeed. He is without question a Heavyweight Champion in the making – and without question boxing’s modern day George Foreman.