JOE JOYCE IS on the cusp of realising his goal of challenging for a full world heavyweight title after recording a career-best win to date over former world champion Joseph Parker in September of last year.
The hugely impressive 11th round knockout placed Joyce into the inner circle of leading heavyweights and also won him the status of being WBO Interim world champion.
Prior to his Parker success, ‘The Big Juggernaut’ confirmed his credentials with victory over heavyweight contender Carlos Takam, a fight where he showed the world that he is leading the charge of the next generation of heavyweights
He got to enjoy the long overdue trappings of his success during his preparations for his big night at Wembley against the renowned force of Takam.
The now 37-year-old suffered from being the nearly man back in 2016 in his grand Olympic final against Tony Yoka in Rio, being deemed to have finished in the silver medal spot when most observers thought he deserved to add to Team GB’s gold rush.
Given his advanced years – in sporting terms – Joyce was then in a rush to get cracking as a professional and he took on fights that flew in the face of conventional wisdom when it comes to newcomers learning the pro ropes.
There were no ‘knockover jobs’ for Joyce and the Commonwealth title was duly won in his fourth fight, with the WBA Continental title following three fights later, before stellar names such as Bermane Stiverne, Aleksandr Ustinov and Bryant Jennings found their way onto Joyce’s resume.
Despite his already spectacular showreel, true recognition did not really arrive until Joyce brought his pro fight tally up to a dozen with an all-British showdown against the seemingly unstoppable force of Dynamite Daniel Dubois.
Make no bones about it, most people strongly believed Dubois would simply prove too much for Joyce and he would be overwhelmed by the younger man and his powder keg power. Not much attention was paid to the fact Joyce had stopped 10 out of his 11 opponents going into the fight. Doubts were raised over his speed of movement and the fact he had willingly taken a few shots across his earlier successes.
It was said he could afford to do that against Dubois. He didn’t. He executed his game plan to probable perfection, stayed on his toes and arrowed out a spearing jab that Dubois simply couldn’t get to grips with. This previously under-employed weapon repeatedly found the target of Dubois’ left eye and, by round 10, the bright young heavy could take no more and wisely took himself – and his severely injured eye socket – out of harm’s way.
A clutch of belts went home to the south of the capital with Joyce and he found himself in the heavyweight driving seat.
Ahead of the Takam fight, Joyce enjoyed top billing, from being ferried around London in an open-top bus, to being welcomed at Wembley and its various entertainment attractions, to visiting the home of his favourite football team over in North London. Arsenal, that is.
It was just reward for the Olympian who has crammed a lot into his first five years as a pro.
Now on a one-way ticket to the top of the sport, the only downside for Joyce was a wrist injury that kept him out of the ring in the first half of 2022.
Joyce will defend his WBO Interim world title against the Chinese giant Zhilei Zhang at the Copper Box Arena on April 15.