Joe Joyce does have a clause in his contract to force an immediate rematch with Zhilei Zhang. But is that the right move for him next?
Joyce’s eye was badly damaged when he lost in six rounds on Saturday night at London’s Copper Box Arena.
The former GB Olympian was admitted to hospital after the fight to have his eye examined but no fractures were found.
It will be a hard loss for Joyce to take. He lost his WBO interim belt and with it the right to challenge for the full heavyweight world championship, held by Oleksandr Usyk.
Joyce does have a rematch clause so could enforce a second fight if he chose to, but it is too early at this stage to say what the Londoner’s next move will be or who he will decide to fight next.
‘Stay away from rematch’
Frazer Clarke was both an amateur opponent of Joyce’s and his team-mate on the GB squad. He advises Joyce against taking a rematch with Zhang in his next fight.
“I think probably déjà vu would happen all over again,” Clarke told Sky Sports. “You win some, you lose some. It’s a bad loss, it’s took your interim position away. I’d stay away from that.
“I don’t think there are many people in the world that would have done that to Joe Joyce.
“The southpaw stance added in with the punch power was a massive thing. I think [Deontay] Wilder could possibly do that to him but I think the southpaw stance played a big part with Joe.
“Don’t get me wrong, Zhang’s a good fighter but I expected Joe to weather the storm and then come on later. Now, after the defeat, when you look back at the credentials, to be fair all of [Zhang’s] performances have been pretty devastating. I just didn’t remember him being as sharp with the back hand as he actually was last night.
“I still expected [Joyce] to walk through quite a lot and take a little bit more on the gloves and then come back strong later on. But he was taking too many shots.”
Clarke believes that Joyce must rebuild for a time. “I think he can come back,” Clarke said. “Don’t write this man off.
“What I do know about him. He will go away and he will work at it. He will definitely right the wrongs. I think he could quite easily have that one fight and come back to a top position. But he was in pole position before. He was the interim champion. I think he was in line to fight for the title.
“It was only after he bashed [Daniel] Dubois up that he really started getting credit,” he added.
“He’s fought so hard to get there. He’s probably a little bit guilty of coming under the illusion and listening to everyone tell him how good of a chin he’s got and how he can walk through anything. He’s probably let that get a little bit caught up in his head and totally neglected his defence and he’s paid the price for it.”
Rebuild and come back against Whyte
Joyce did weigh in a stone lighter than he was in his last fight, when he produced a career best performance against Joseph Parker. He will need to recapture that condition.
“That version of Joe Joyce against Joe Parker was the one that people were terrified of and the one that had people thinking you know what, this guy is going to go on and do great things. Now it leaves a big question mark for people,” Clarke said.
“Once [Zhang] matched him for size, matched him for strength, once Zhang wasn’t going backwards and running and Joe was obviously there to be hit, it was a recipe for disaster.”
Joyce will have options for good fights apart from the Zhang rematch. A big name like Dillian Whyte, a highly ranked fighter like Martin Bakole or pursuing a rematch with Dubois could all suit him better.
“I think all those names are good fights for him stylistically. I think Dillian Whyte was there last night trying to build a bit of a fight. I think that’s a great fight for Joe. I think it’s a fight that Joe wins,” Clarke said.
“He doesn’t have the awkwardness of a Zhang. I don’t think he hits as hard as Zhang neither and the shot that Dillian Whyte is best known for is probably the left hook. I don’t think Joe will be that susceptible to it as he was to the southpaw backhand landing down the middle.
“I think that would be a great fight for Joe. I think it’s a fight that Joe wins.”