Joe Joyce is ready to shake off some ring rust as he remains on the verge of a heavyweight title run.
The unbeaten London-bred heavyweight returns to the ring for the first time in nearly a year, as he faces Germany’s Christian Hammer. Their scheduled twelve-round regional heavyweight title fight headlines a show that will air live on BT Sport in the UK and ESPN+ in the U.S. from Wembley’s OVO Arena.
Joyce weighed a stacked 265.6 pounds for his first fight since recovering from a wrist injury that contributed to a 49-week inactive stretch. The 2016 Olympic Silver medalist has not fought since a sixth-round stoppage of former title challenger Carlos Takam at this very venue last July 24.
Hammer (27-9, 17KOs) weighed 263 pounds for a bout he accepted on short notice. The 34-year-old from Hamburg was brought into the mix after plans fell through for a heavyweight showdown between Joyce and former WBO heavyweight titlist Joseph Parker.
At the very least, Hammer is expected to provide rounds for Joyce. The journeyman heavyweight is just .500 over his past ten fights, going the distance in losses to Alexander Povetkin, Luis Ortiz, Tony Yoka and Frank Sanchez. The lone stoppage defeat over that stretch came when he was forced to retire on his stool due to a biceps injury after the fifth round of his clash with Hughie Fury last October.
Joyce remains the top-rated WBO challenger for reigning WBA/IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight champ Oleksandr Usyk (19-0, 13KOs), who defends his crown in an August 20 rematch with Anthony Joshua in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The 36-year-old Brit is also the number-two contender for the WBC title currently held by Tyson Fury (32-0-1, 23KOs).
The undercard features former two-division titlist Zolani Tete, who will now campaign in the 122-pound junior featherweight division. The 34-year-old southpaw from Eastern Cape, South Africa will face Doncaster’s Jason Cunningham (31-6, 7KOs) in the evening’s co-feature scheduled for 12 rounds.
Tete (29-4, 22KOs) weighed a career-high 121.7 pounds for just his second fight since ending his WBO bantamweight title reign in a third-round knockout loss to John Riel Casimero in November 2019. Cunningham checked in at 121 ¾ pounds for his fourth straight bout at this weight after having campaigned at and above the featherweight limit.
Tete previously enjoyed an impressive IBF junior bantamweight title run that included back-to-back wins over Teiru Kinoshita and Paul Butler, both of whom were undefeated at the time. Butler has since claimed the WBO bantamweight title that Tete held for two years.
Cunningham has won seven straight since a December 2018 ten-round loss to Michael Conlan. The 32-year-old southpaw is enjoying his best stretch, with wins over former title challenger Gamal Yafai and a pair of unbeaten prospects in Brad Foster and Terry LeCouviour.
Below are the weights for the rest of the undercard.
Mark Chamberlain (10-0, 7KOs), Portsmouth, Hampshire, 134.7 pounds vs. Marc Vidal (13-2-5, 5KOs), Castellbisbal, Spain, 134.3 pounds—10 rounds, lightweight
Micky Burke (6-0, 3KOs), London, 154 ¾ pounds* vs. Serge Ambomo (7-31-3, 3KOs), Sheffield via Ngoksa, Cameroon, 152 ¼ pounds—6 rounds, junior middleweight
* Burke was 0.75 pounds over the contract limit
Henry Turner (7-0, 1KO), High Wycombe, Birmingham, 141.7 pounds vs. Jakub Laskowski (4-16-1, 2KOs), Siemianowice, Poland, 142 ¾ pounds—6 rounds, junior welterweight
Tommy Fletcher (pro debut), Attleborough, Norfolk, 197 pounds vs. Aron Gregorio (1-0, 0KOs), Karlovac, Croatia, 193 pounds—4 rounds, cruiserweight
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox