The veteran trainer of Joe Joyce admits he fell victim to his own hubris.
Joyce, the longtime contender from England, suffered an upset loss to China’s Zhilei Zhang by sixth-round technical knockout last April at Copper Box Arena in London. Zhang could hardly miss with his left hand, and he eventually forced referee Howard Foster to stop their bout because of the swelling around Joyce’s right eye.
The loss was a considerable step back for “The Juggernaut,” who at the time was gaining momentum as a serious threat to the titlists in the division.
The two will run it straight back (per a clause in their contract, which Joyce had activated) at OVO Arena Wembley in London on Sept. 23.
Joyce himself has admitted that he overlooked Zhang somewhat leading into the first fight, given all the chatter about potential fights with WBC heavyweight titlist Tyson Fury and unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
But Joyce wasn't alone in that regard. Ismael Salas, Joyce’s trainer, admitted he viewed Zhang lightly as well.
Salas, who also trains Cuban welterweight Yordenis Ugas, promised Joyce’s mistakes would be rectified for the rematch.
“Right now, you know, we are in training camp,” Salas told BoxingScene.com. “He’s got three weeks with us. This time we’re doing general preparation. Actually, we working hard and we polishing the mistakes with him. I don’t like to take away anything from Zhang. He did a great job. That’s why he won. But this time we go for the winning path. We’re correcting all the mistakes we did, and I believe it will be a great fight and that we will be the winner.
“Not only Joe [overlooked Zhang], even myself. Even myself, I overlooked Zhang. I have to be honest, you know what I mean? He (Joyce) looked very sluggish, very basic as a fighter, but Zhang did very good. I congratulate Zhang and all his team.
“But remember what I tell you: For the next fight it will be different, so different.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.