Joe Joyce is sure he could’ve continued to trade punches with Zhilei Zhang when their heavyweight title fight was stopped in the sixth round April 15.
Joyce didn’t protest the stoppage when British referee Howard Foster halted the action, but he wanted their scheduled 12-round bout to proceed at Copper Box Arena in Joyce’s hometown of London. Foster waved an end to it on the advice of a British Boxing Board of Control doctor, who closely examined the swelling surrounding Joyce’s right eye that made it difficult for him to see out of it.
“Apart from the very accurate straight left hands from Zhang that hit me, I was throwing more punches and landing more punches,” Joyce told BoxingScene.com. “And I felt like I was starting to get to him as well as the rounds went on. It wasn’t like I was in too much trouble. I mean, I could still see a little bit out of my eye and I could’ve continued, but it was kind of out of my control that it got stopped.”
The 6-foot-6 Joyce downplayed the significant bruising and swelling that made it appear as if he couldn’t see Zhang’s punches coming.
“It looked a lot worse than it was,” Joyce explained. “A lot of people were saying that I should start thinking about retirement. I’m like, ‘It’s only a bruised eye. It went down within the week and I lived to fight another day.’ I’ll be coming back for this title. It’s all good.”
British judge Phil Edwards drew criticism for scoring three of the first five rounds for Joyce, who was ahead 48-47 on Edwards’ card when the fight was stopped. Wisconsin’s Mike Fitzgerald and Florida’s Efrain Lebron had Zhang ahead by the same score, 48-47, entering the sixth round.
The 38-year-old Joyce acknowledged that their fight was very competitive, but he pointed out that he had his moments as well.
“There’s an AI scoring system video thing I watched where they counted the punches thrown and landed,” Joyce said, “and I landed way more punches than him. But it was the telling ones that were the power shots from Zhang. He didn’t throw as many punches, but the accurate ones landed. But yeah, it depends what you’re looking at, what judges are looking at.”
The British Boxing Board of Control has assigned South Africa’s Deon Dwarte, China’s Mark Leong and England’s Marcus McDonnell to score the Zhang-Joyce rematch. Veteran English referee Steve Gray will be the third man in the ring Saturday night.
Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) is slightly favored to retain his WBO interim title against Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs), who was a 9-1 favorite entering their first fight.
Their 12-round rematch will be broadcast by TNT Sports in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The network’s undercard coverage is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. BST.
ESPN+ will stream Zhang-Joyce II as the main event of a two-bout show that will start at 5 p.m. EDT (2 p.m. PDT) in the United States.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.