Joe Joyce fights Zhilei Zhang on April 15 in London on BT Sport

With Brian Webber: Joe Joyce (15-0, 14 KOs) will make a dangerous defense of his interim WBO heavyweight title against two-time Olympic champion Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) in a 12-round bout on BT Sport on 15 April at the Copper Box Arena in London, England.

Joyce vs. Zhang will be an entertaining matchup with the two big guns standing in the center ring, trading big shots. Zhang has shown himself to be susceptible to pressure from fighters who set a fast pace and have a strong chin.

“The Juggernaut” Joyce tends to put relentless pressure on his opponents, forcing them to expend a lot of energy each round.

Journeyman Jerry Forrest weathered an early storm against Zhang to rally in the later rounds to salvage a 10-round tie in their 2021 fight. Zhang had Forrest down in rounds 1, 2 and 3 but couldn’t put him away because he gassed.

As long as Joyce doesn’t lead with his face in the early rounds, he has a great chance to stop the 6’6″ Zhang in the second half of the fight. It still won’t be an easy fight for Joyce, but he has the engine to wear Zhang down and stop him in the championship rounds.

Zhang was arguably robbed in his last fight in August, losing a controversial 12-round unanimous decision to Filip Hrgovic in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Many boxing fans, including Joyce, felt that Zhang deserved to win this fight.

Again, Zhang ran out of gas in the championship rounds, just like he did against Forrest, which is why he ultimately lost the match. There is no doubt that Zhang faded in the backstretch, allowing Hrgovic to rally to win the match.

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2016 silver medalist Joyce is coming off the best win of his short six-year professional career, stopping former WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker in the 11th round last September in a start-to-finish war.

This was a statement win for 37-year-old Joyce, who sent a message to champions Tyson Fury & Oleksandr Usyk that he was coming for them.

Fury had initially expressed interest in facing Joyce, but appears to have changed his mind and will likely go in the direction of a hybrid fight with Francis Ngannou in the summer. From there it could be Fury’s last fight for 2023.

Joyce is giving the fight to prepare him to face the winner of the April 29 undisputed fight between WBC champion Fury and IBF, WBA & WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk.

“I think with me and Zhang, we’re going to trade some really heavy punches and I’m sure it’s going to be a good fight. It will be a good preparation for Usyk or Fury,” Joyce told Queensberry Promotions.

“It’s going to be carnage in the center of the ring. He had a tough fight against Hrgovic but I thought he won the fight. Zhang is a big, strong southpaw who’s huge, and he’s been to the Olympics and all that,” Joyce said.

Joyce, 27, may have to wait until 2024 before either winning the title or becoming full champion if Fury chooses to retire. That means, of course, that Fury beats Usyk to capture the WBO belt.

It says a lot about Zhang, a resident of Bloomfield, New Jersey, that he was willing to take a dangerous fight against a fighter like Joyce because it was a fight he could lose.

Even if Zhang wins, he could still emerge victorious if he fights Joyce hard and has success in the early rounds. No one fared well against Joyce and it would be interesting if Zhang gave him problems.

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