Shaun George respects that Joe Joyce’s competitive nature will make him want an immediate rematch with Zhilei Zhang.
Zhang’s trainer nevertheless cannot envision the British heavyweight contender changing enough in their second fight to enable him to avenge his lone loss. China’s Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) upset Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) by sixth-round technical knockout earlier this month at Copper Box Arena in London, where the 6-foot-6, 278-pound Zhang continually landed left hands and caused referee Howard Foster to stop their bout because there was severe swelling around Joyce’s right eye.
“Zhilei was exciting and enjoyed himself in their fight, but Zhilei didn’t get into the details [of the game plan],” George told BoxingScene.com. “He didn’t show you everything he had. This is the best people have seen Zhilei fight, but we still haven’t seen the best of Zhilei. The rematch would only get worse for Joe Joyce.
“There’s not much that he can do. Maybe he can find a new trainer, but there’s not much he can do. Joe is always gonna be Joe. He’s a competitive fighter and he’s a good guy, but under no circumstances can he beat Zhilei.”
London’s Joyce has a rematch clause in his contract, but it wouldn’t have to happen next if the 2016 Olympic silver medalist activates it. Allowing Zhang to fight someone else next would be a risk, of course, because if Zhang were to lose the 37-year-old Joyce wouldn’t have an opportunity to regain the WBO interim championship from him.
“I think he’ll wanna do it [next] because he’s a competitive person, but it’s up to his team to protect him,” George said. “If he wants a rematch, Zhilei would not duck anyone and he will always fulfill his obligations. If he wants to activate [the rematch clause], then we want the rematch as soon as possible.”
If Joyce doesn’t want his second shot at Zhang next, the 39-year-old Zhang could become an option for WBC champ Tyson Fury, who could return to the ring as soon as July 22 at a stadium to be determined in the United Kingdom. Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs), Joyce and Zhang are all promoted by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, which co-promotes Fury along with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
Zhang also became the WBO’s mandatory challenger for one of Oleksandr Usyk’s titles by beating Joyce. Ukraine’s Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs) has mandatory defenses due first, however, against England’s Daniel Dubois (19-1, 18 KOs), who owns the WBA secondary championship, and Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs), who is the IBF’s number one contender.
Whoever he fights next, Zhang’s ascent toward the top of his division, though later than expected, has been rewarding for the handlers of a fighter who first displayed his potential when he won a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
“It was a lot of hard work,” George said. “It was promoters not believing in us and boxing fans not really understanding what was going on behind the scenes. It was a long road. It took us a long time to get here. But Zhilei is actually getting better. He’s enjoying himself. I’m excited, I’m happy and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.