The spotlight will be on Joe Joyce this weekend and for the first time on Saturday at Wembley he will have more to lose than to gain when he takes on Carlos Takam. One thing he is sure of, though, is that the pressure is not going to get to him.
This week Joyce was told he would be elevated to the WBO’s No 1 spot once Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk met on September 25, a prospective top ranking that will be on the line in every fight between now and a world title shot.
But the 35-year-old says there are no nerves and the pressure in nothing compared to his super-heavyweight Olympic final against Tony Yoka in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
“The Olympic final was more pressure, literally the whole world is watching,” Joyce said.
“That’s one of the great things of getting on Team GB and going to an Olympics. There is not much bigger. It’s a once in a lifetime thing to medal at an Olympics and it sets you up. The pressure of an Olympic final doesn’t get much bigger until it is a world title fight. So, it is great experience like you have done it before.
“But in every fight, you are still getting in that squared circle. You are performing in front of the world. All my fights have been tough fighters who are coming to win, but now I have a lot more support since fighting Daniel Dubois and beating him.
“Now everyone seems to be following me on the journey and I am just one fight away from a world title.”
A come-forward aggressive fighter, Takam will be no pushover, as he boxes in the UK for the fourth time. He was stopped by Anthony Joshua for the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles in Cardiff in 2017 and was well on top against Derek Chisora, until the Londoner turned things round with a big right hand. He was successful at the third attempt in the UK when he stopped Senad Gashi. As Joyce tends to take a punch as well as he can deliver one, it’s likely to be an exciting fight.
“There is no danger of me taking him lightly,” Joyce, 35, said. “He is dangerous, he is durable, and he is probably going to be around for a good few rounds.
“He was in top against Chisora, but I would imagine that I am better than Chisora. We’ll have to see. It is going to be an entertaining fight.”
Joyce isn’t the biggest of talkers when it comes to boxing, largely because it is not one of his main interests. If you want to hear some impassioned talk from the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight champion, raise the subject of gaming or art.
Joyce did a Fine Art degree before he first picked up a pair of gloves and he has decided to commemorate his best nights in the ring in acrylics, starting with his win over Daniel Dubois last November.
The task, though, has become even bigger than he expected as the latest canvases he ordered turned out to be much larger than expected.
“I’m pursuing the idea of making a career out of it, so I’m doing a series of paintings,” he said “I’ve made a little studio in my flat where I’m working on stuff.
“But the canvasses that arrived were 60 x 48 inches. I thought the measurements were centimetres. They’re massive!
“The thing about painting big canvasses is one, you need a lot of paint and two, it just takes too long. You’re there for days and I’m just a bit too impatient.”
Joyce was a latecomer to boxing, taking up the sport at 22, having previously done athletics, swimming and rugby.
“I was good at the long jump and triple jump before I got an injury and then I tried everything from hurdles to shot put, discus and 200m and 400m," he said. "Aged 22 I tried boxing at Earlsfield gym during the summer holiday, just to tick over, but I kept going back when I was off Uni and then it took.
“I think there are benefits. The fact I did so many other sports has helped me pick up so many other attributes. Boxing can be very specific and narrow but because of my background I already had a good understanding of athleticism and stretching and other things, good habits that can get ignored in a boxing gym.
“I also never had to make weight as a kid, like so many young fighters do, and we know that can stunt your growth. I know a lot of people who were good boxers as kids but by 16 they were sick of it and parties and girls came along as distractions come along.
“That was a bit like me with rugby and swimming. I did all my partying and shenanigans at Uni and by 22 I knew who I was and what I wanted to do and it worked for me.”
“I’ve been lucky. I have had a really interesting journey and it has been fun. I started off at Earlsfield and that was a whole new experience and being part of the team and three of us won the ABAs, myself, Kirk Garvey and Louis Adolphe. Then went on an assessment for GB and there you are well looked after, with the support teams and all the different coaches and you can learn a bit from each.
“My pro journey started with David Haye and Richard Schaefer and then I went with Sam Jones and Adam Morrelli. There have been loads of fun times in camp with Sam, we started in Ireland, then went to LA and Vegas, been up to Big Bear. I’ve had a great experience.”
But even with a big fight in front of him, Joyce’s has had some attention on matters in Tokyo. It was in Rio five years ago that Joyce looked unlucky to claim only a silver medal at super-heavyweight, becoming the fourth Great Britain boxer to claim a medal in that division in the past five Olympics.
That spot this time goes to Frazer Clarke, who had been Joyce’s main rival ahead of those Games, but became his biggest supporter in the arena as he travelled out to Brazil as a sparring partner.
“He was there waving the big flag and he was wearing the full support kit,” Joyce said. “And he was sparring me right up to it, so he really helped me.
“I’m always supporting him. I have wished him luck and all my best goes out to him. I hope he comes back with the gold medal.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.