BOXING

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR BOXING PREVIEW Sat: Joe Joyce v Zhilei Zhang

Hard hitting heavyweight Joe Joyce returns this weekend as he takes on former Olympian Zhilei Zhang in London.

Joyce is in the conversation to fight for a shot at the heavyweight belt by the end of the year and nothing less than another devastating knockout victory will be enough for the hometown fighter.

Joyce (15-0 14KO) was an outstanding amateur and claimed silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics. His illustrious amateur career meant that his professional debut didn’t come until he was in his mid-thirties but his progress through the heavyweight ranks has been impressive.

Within 15 fights, Joyce has claimed domestic honours and registered wins against the likes of Daniel Dubois, Carlos Takam & Joseph Parker. His latest victory, over Parker, was particularly impressive as he became the first man to stop the former heavyweight world champion. When you consider the level of opposition Parker has fought throughout his career, it is an exceptionally strong piece of form.

At 39, Zhang is approaching his last years as a competitive heavyweight but he proved in his last contest against Filip Hrgovic that he still has what it takes to mix it at the top of boxing’s premium division. He came out on the wrong end of a decision in that fight but many thought he won and he did his reputation no harm.

As an Olympian himself, Zhang brings a very well-rounded skillset to the table and will be confident that he can outbox Joyce, especially early on. Joyce is known for giving away early rounds but he will need to be careful against an experienced campaigner like Zhang who knows how to protect a lead on the cards, effectively.

The one negative for Zhang in this fight is that he hasn’t displayed any real power that would suggest he can hurt someone like Joe Joyce. Joyce has taken clean shots from huge punchers and managed to keep moving forward so and if the Chinese challenger can’t get the respect of the hometown fighter, he will struggle to establish any real dominance.

At Friday’s weigh in, Joyce was 22lbs lighter than Zhang but looked noticeably more athletic and it’s that athleticism that could be the difference. Zhang has shown in previous fights that although he has a lot of boxing ability, he can tire in fights but Joyce is the complete opposite. He has freakish levels of stamina for a heavyweight and gets noticeably stronger as the fight goes on.

Zhang has the boxing ability to nick some early rounds in this fight but as the contest progresses, Joyce should start to take over. At 39, It is highly unlikely that Zhang can keep the pace with the home favourite for twelve rounds here and as he starts to tire between rounds 7-12, Joyce should get the finish and take one step closer to world honours. (6/4)

On the undercard, keep an eye out for upcoming prospect Sam Noakes who has a perfect record of (10-0 10KO). He is taken on an overmatched international fighter here and this one could go early. Sam Noakes in rounds 1-3 looks a solid bet (10/11)

JORDAN NEILD


RECOMMENDED BETS
BACK Joe Joyce to win between rounds 7-12 2pts at 6/4 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Sam Noakes to win in rounds 1-3 1pt at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)


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