Joe Joyce was stopped in the sixth round of twelve by Zhilei Zhang. A horrid eye injury was the reason, but no excuse. That fight ending, orbital swelling was due to the fearsome fists of the underdog from Zhoukou. In victory and in loss Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce showed the division leaders why they need to be more like them.

This doesn’t sound like heavy praise, but it is; who cares that Joyce lost? The heavyweights outside the belt holders are still a furious, fearsome and fascinating bunch of bruisers. Mostly all willing to take risks. Sure, there’s nobody quite like Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk, but there never will be and that is not to say that there should be a monopoly on the leather and metal trinkets, people want to see the best against the best.

Zhang looked like the immovable force man believed Joyce was going into their fight. Slow but accurate and so motherfucking huge his flaws didn’t matter, Zhilei’s going to chin you and it is going to hurt. Joe may now empathise with Daniel Dubois, who he beat via a similar facial destruction.

Fury and Usyk, Joshua and Wilder have messed around long enough at the top that their time there shouldn’t be sacrosanct. While a combination of any of the four makes for a good fight, many of the heavies under them have shown they’re willing and able to fight them. Boxing is risk versus reward but there has to be a point when it is a sensible competition between top level athletes.

Zhang lost to Hrgovic, a man who also shatters faces in sparring. Dubois lost to Joyce, and now holds some sort of world title. Joshua, who is never going to beat Usyk, Fury or Wilder but will make for a fun opponent, has lost three times. Dillian Whyte has lost the same number of times but would still beat some of the others and Andy Ruiz and Martin Bakole have losses but can claim to batter other world level big dogs.

What Joe Joyce, the amateur world level medalist with as much bravado-bravery as Dillian Whyte who similarly took anyone on while waiting for his shot, has proved is that losing isn’t the end. Zhilei Zhang lost to Filip Hrgovic and beat the Juggernaut in his next fight. These guys are willing to take the risk, the heavyweight division reward is boiling over with bruisers but cock blocked at the top with egos.

Joyce was beaten fair and square,but he could have taken easier fights and maintained his ranking. Zhilei Zhang is now ahead of him in the massive queue behind the top four, but Joe Joyce losing proves again that the heavyweight division is a fan favourite for a reason, anyone can beat anyone. Who cares about the loss, these elite big men are showing the belt holders that respect will not come from swerving each other.


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