By Joseph Herron: Less than a month removed from “The Juggernaut’s” first professional loss, former WBO interim heavyweight champ Joe Joyce and his team have elected to activate a rematch clause strategically placed in his initial fight contract with hard-hitting Zhilei Zhang of China.
The news comes as somewhat of a surprise, not only considering how the first fight played out but also after hearing that the news of a potential super fight between current WBC champ Tyson Fury and the newly crowned WBO Interim titleist is close to being finalized for a July date at Wembley Stadium.
In the minds of many interested and experienced observers, the 37-year-old British contender would be wise to walk away from this dangerous style matchup.
One of those experienced observers is five-decade flight trainer Ronnie Shields.
In the mind of the future Hall of Fame boxing coach, Team Joyce should use his current leverage to negotiate a less dangerous arrangement.
“I know He had a rematch clause in their first fight contract, So he should use it to negotiate some “step-aside” money as well as a guarantee to face the winner…should Tyson Fury be victorious. If the Big Bang somehow wins the WBC title in July, ‘Slow-mo Joe’ would be wise to forget about his first loss and not try to avenge it.”
“And he had better hope they actually finalize the agreement and make this fight for July because otherwise, he’s stuck in another problematic matchup with the big punching Southpaw.”
“Zhang’s style is all wrong for Joyce. He’d have a better chance of beating Fury.”
The response from Shields seems perplexing due to the fact that most critics, fans, and observers list Tyson Fury as the top-rated heavyweight in the division, just behind lineal champ Oleksandr Usysk.
The astute boxing coach elaborated on his opinion.
“Zhang may be a 40-year-old fighter, but he’s experienced, powerful, and very fast. After watching the first fight, it was obvious Joyce couldn’t see the punches coming from the Southpaw position. And it was also painfully obvious that he had no effective game plan against a left-handed fighter going into the first fight.”
Coach Shields understands exactly what Joe Joyce and head trainer Ismael Salas are up against.
In August of 2022, the prolific trainer and his Heavyweight contender, Filip Hrgovic, seemingly had their hands full when facing the formerly undefeated Southpaw puncher throughout a scheduled 12 round contest to determine the IBF interim Heavyweight champion.
In the opinion of many, the Croatian-born pugilist was fortunate to have his arm raised in victory that evening.
“Zhang is no joke,” professes Coach Shields. “His hand speed, boxing skills, and power are enough to be competitive with anyone in this division.”
“Styles indeed make fights, and with his attributes, Zhang has the right style to beat Joe Joyce 10 times out of 10 fights. The Big Bang thrives off of opponents who stand right in front of him, and where he can see the punches coming from a mile away, slipping and then countering effectively.”
“Does Slo-mo Joe think that he got faster since that beat down he took in April at age 37? Does he think he can get someone who can replicate that same movement and speed in camp?
“Where you going to get your speed from? Where you going to get your head movement from? Your coach can’t fight for you!”
“During the first fight, Zhang could have closed his eyes and hit him all night long. Joyce was right there to be hit, and there’s not a damn thing he could do about it!”
“Is he hoping once again that he can take another beating and wait for the Big Bang to run out of gas? Against a huge puncher like Zhang, that’s not a very smart or healthy strategy.”
The experienced fight trainer believes that this is a fight Joe Joyce cannot win, and another devastating loss could mean the end of his professional fighting career.
“Some fighters are just all wrong for you. Just like Canelo versus Bivol, he needs to forget about the big Chinese Southpaw, Because I truly believe he can’t win a rematch. I believe a second fight with the big bang would be career suicide.”
Overall, Shields seems to have a realistic and pragmatic approach to Joyce’s career, recognizing that some fighters are simply not a good matchup for others, and that it’s important to focus on opportunities that offer the best chance for success.
Should Joe Joyce elect to walk away from the opportunity to face Zhilei Zhang once again?