Tuesday, December 05, 2023  |



Zhilei Zhang stops Joe Joyce in three rounds, wins rematch in impressive fashion

Zhilei Zhang celebrates after winning his rematch against Joe Joyce at OVO Arena Wembley in London, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
Fighters Network

Chinese heavyweight contender Zhilei Zhang proved his April stoppage of Joe Joyce was no fluke by knocking out the British standout in the third round of their rematch on Saturday at OVO Arena Wembley in London, England.

Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs), The Ring’s No. 4-rated heavyweight, clipped his fellow Olympic silver medalist with a massive right hook that crumpled Joyce forward to the canvas as the 38-year-old Londoner was winding up with a right hand. Joyce, The Ring’s No. 6-rated heavyweight, was visibly hurt and struggled to get to his feet by the end of referee Steve Gray’s 10 count.

“I said before this fight that it would end sooner than the first fight,” Zhang said during his post-bout interview in the ring. The 6-foot-6, 287-pound southpaw, who is trained by former light heavyweight contender Shaun George, was correct.

During their first bout on April 15, Zhang, a 40-year-old veteran who represented China in the 2008 Olympics but now lives and trains in New Jersey, gradually closed Joyce’s right eye with a series of left hands, leaving the referee no choice but to wave the fight off in Round 6.

The rematch ended abruptly but it began with a feeling out round that Joyce may have arguably won simply by moving to his left and avoiding conflict. However, once Zhang found range for his left hand in Round 2, he immediately stunned Joyce, backing the crowd favorite to the ropes.

Joyce had enlisted the help of Ismael Salas for the Zhang rematch. The noted Cuban trainer tried to change Joyce’s usual stalk-and-destroy style in favor of a careful counterpunching approach that didn’t work for very long vs. Zhang. Joyce, who weighed in at 281 pounds (25 pounds heavier than he was for the first bout), tried his best to paw with his jab and operate at a distance while moving his head as much as he could manage, but the new look only served to make him even more ponderous than usual and in line for Zhang’s much-faster hands.

Zhang, who has far nimbler feet and quicker reflexes, mixed in body shots with his left-hand bombs in Round 3, which ultimately set an already stunned Joyce for the big, well-timed right hook that ended the fight.

Zhilei Zhang’s left hands softened Joe Joyce up but the right hook ended matters. Photo / @Queensberry

Zhang retained the WBO’s interim belt with his repeat victory, which basically makes him the mandatory challenger for unified Ring champ Oleksandr Usyk’s WBO title. However, Big Bang is aiming for a different heavyweight and made that clear when he asked the audience a question at the end of his post-bout interview:

“Do you want to see me shut Tyson Fury up?”