By Jake Donovan
Joe Joyce’s third time stepping into the ring in 2019 will also serve as a step up in class.
The 2016 Olympic Silver medalist and current unbeaten rising heavyweight from England is rumored to be heading towards a showdown with veteran contender Bryant Jennings.
If made official, the two will collide July 13 at O2 Arena in London, England, on the same show as a pairing of unbeaten British heavyweights between Nathan Gorman and Daniel Dubois which will air live on BT Sport in the United Kingdom and ESPN+ in the United States..
Joyce’s placement on the show is secure, regardless. That said, his rumored opponent seems to believe it’s a done deal.
“It’s happening,” Jennings teased on Thursday, accompanying a social media-posted video of his working out in preparation for the bout.
The segment was tagged “Grind 7/13 O2 Arena”, with Joyce’s team joining in on the fun.
“He’s going to need more than a Vegan diet and a six-pack to deal with Joe,” quipped Sam Jones, Joyce’s manager.
That said, ink has yet to be put to paper as Jennings remains a finalist to land the fight—though the heavy favorite considering the short list of suggested opponents.
Also rumored to be considered are fringe contenders Chris Arreola and Eric Molina. Arreola is reportedly finalizing terms for an August 3 showdown versus unbeaten contender Adam Kownacki, while Molina would have to beg forgiveness of the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC), with whom he remains under a two-year suspension dating back to Oct. 2017 for a failed drug test from his Dec. 2016 knockout loss to unbeaten heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua.
For Joyce (9-0, 9KOs), it’s the continuation of a brisk run towards title contention just two years into his pro career. The 33-year old Londoner has been matched aggressively since his Oct. 2017 pro debut, with his forthcoming challenge of Jennings marking his third straight contest versus an opponent with vastly more world class pro experience.
His previous two opponents were notable only by name at this stage of their respective careers, however. Joyce is fresh from a 3rd round knockout of Alexander Ustinov this past Saturday in Stevenage, England, the bout coming less than three months after obliterating former heavyweight titlist Bermane Stiverne in six rounds at the O2 Arena in February.
Even in coming off of a disheartening 12th round knockout defeat to Oscar Rivas earlier this year, Jennings (24-3, 14KOs) remains a step up in class.
The former heavyweight title challenger from Philadelphia was due to return to the ring in June on the undercard of unbeaten Tyson Fury who makes his Las Vegas debut. Those plans didn’t quite shake out, although it would be a massive upgrade should he land the fight versus Jones.
Jennings had won five straight prior to the loss to Rivas, all coming during his time under the Top Rank promotional banner. The veteran contender had been out of the ring for 20 months prior to that point, sitting idle following back-to-back losses to then-World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and then-unbeaten Luis Ortiz, both in 2015.
Joyce swept through the first three rounds of the 2016 Rio Olympics, scoring a 1st round knockout Davilson dos Santos Morais along with a pair of three-round shutouts over Bakhodir Jalolov and Ivan Dychko to storm into the finals. He would ultimately settle for a silver medal, however, dropping a close but clear decision to France’s Tony Yoka, also a current unbeaten prospect in the pro ranks.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox