Hoss fights are never out of fashion.
What else can one call a rematch where the combined weight of the combatants is more than 560 pounds? At that size, one knows they aren’t about to see a delicate skills contest. These are monster heavyweights looking to do monstrous things to one another.
There are few better ways to spend a Saturday (ESPN+, 5 PM EST).
In the first encounter, battling literally for an interim WBO belt but really for the chance to be in line for a crack at unified titlist Oleksandr Usyk, Zhang Zhilei was too quick for Joe Joyce. He busted up Joyce’s eye and forced a stoppage. Joyce’s solution? Show up some 25 pounds heavier. Joyce has never been fast at any weight. He’s betting on mass to even this rivalry at one apiece.
Zhilei is only a few pounds bigger this time and will retain the edge in speed. Can Joyce keep the damage down long enough to carry Zhilei late into the fight and make a move on a stoppage?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 287 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Zhoukou, China
Record: 25-1-1, 20 KO
Rankings: #4 (TBRB, Ring), #6 (ESPN), #9 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: No title fights (1-0, 1 KO in interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 72-12-3 (.845)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Filip Hrgovic L12; Joe Joyce TKO6
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None
Titles/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 281 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Putney, London, United Kingdom
Record: 15-1, 14 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: #5 (TBRB), #6 (Ring, BoxRec), #8 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: No title fights (1-1, 1 KO, 1 KOBY in interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 121-17-2 (.871)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB/Ring Rated Foes: Joseph Parker KO11
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Zhang Zhilei TKO by 6
The Pick: Prior to their first encounter, the pick from this corner was Joyce. His chin, durability, and persistence seemed like enough to overcome the quicker and more fluid Zhilei. That turned out not to be the case and, having seen this scrap already once this year, it’s hard to see how Joyce being even heavier and potentially slower helps his chances. Joyce’s defense remains too predicated on his ability to absorb punishment.
Zhilei is going to be first again when he lets his hands go and he had little issue finding Joyce the first time. Joyce’s chin held up. His face did not. It’s on Joyce to show he can reverse course. The evidence resides with Zhilei that he can’t. The pick is Zhilei to cement his place in line with another stoppage win.
Rold Picks 2023: 29-7
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org