Bulked up Joyce at career heaviest for Zhang rematch

Bulked up Joyce at career heaviest for Zhang rematch

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Joe Joyce poses for the cameras after weighing in
Olympic silver medallist Joyce has won 25 and lost one since turning pro

Joe Joyce “took on constructive criticism” to weigh a career heaviest 20st 1lb for Saturday’s rematch with Zhilei Zhang at Wembley’s OVO Arena, 25lbs heavier than their first fight.

The British heavyweight, 38, had said his weight played a part in April’s sixth-round stoppage loss to Zhang.

China’s Zhang, 40, is at 20st 7lb.

“I knew the weight was a little bit light last time,” said Joyce, who suffered a first career defeat to Zhang.

“Last time I started the camp already on weight. This time I’ve corrected the weight. I’ve been a little bit conscious of what I’ve been eating.”

Joyce will look to reclaim the WBO ‘interim’ title he lost and the mandatory challenger spot for unified world champion Oleksandr Usyk.

“I believe I will get victory in this fight. I reckon I can stop him if I hit him with the right shots,” he added.

‘I’m heavier but keeping the speed’

Friday’s weigh-in at The Drum, Wembley was open to the public yet – apart from fighters’ teams, friends and families – only a small number of fans were in attendance.

Joyce mingled among the press as an observer for the undercard weigh-in. As the challenger, the Putney-born fighter took the scales first.

It was widely expected Joyce would come in heavier after he gave up 22lbs to Zhang when the two met at London’s Copper Box Arena five months ago, but few predicted it would be by this margin.

Joyce, who is 10lb heavier than his previous career-heaviest weight, said: “I’m in a lot better place physically and mentally. My focus and drive to win this time is a lot stronger.

“I took on constructive criticism and came in heavier, but I’m still keeping the speed.”

Underdog Zhang dominated the first fight, landing with ease before the referee halted the contest saving Joyce, and his swollen right eye, from any further damage.

The ‘Juggernaut’ looked on with anticipation as Zhang stepped on the scales, looking a little surprised his opponent has also gained weight from their first encounter.

“He put on weight intentionally, I didn’t do that,” Zhang said. “This is my natural weight. For all the years I’ve been pro, this is the best training camp I’ve ever had.”

Thursday’s news conference was light-hearted, but there was a more serious look to both fighters. After a long staredown, there was a slight nod of acknowledgement between the pair, but no handshake.

Analysis – is too much being made about the weight?

Disappointingly, the lack of press at Thursday’s news conference and the small crowd at the weigh-in suggests this is a fight which has not yet captured the attention of wider sports fans.

A rematch between two powerful heavyweights with the winner potentially gaining a world title shot next year – perhaps interest will peak come fight night.

There were a number of raised eyebrows when Joyce’s weight was read out before the first fight. Even he admitted he had got it wrong.

Joyce appears to have learned from his mistake this time. His trainer, Ismael Salas, says his fighter is “bigger, stronger, heavier and ready.”

But is too much being made about the weight? Joyce looked slow and lacked any head movement last time.

There is a feeling that ‘Big Bang’ Zhang – a huge lump of a man who can box and hit hard with that awkward southpaw stance – may just be Joyce’s bogeyman.

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