JOE JOYCE WILL defend his WBO Interim World Heavyweight title against the Chinese giant Zhilei Zhang at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday, 15 April, live on BT Sport.
It will be a first defence of the belt for the ‘Big Juggernaut’ Joyce, 15-0 (14 KOs), who put himself first in line for a shot at the full WBO title with a thrilling victory over Joseph Parker in September of last year in Manchester.
Tickets for the showdown between Joyce and Zhang on Saturday, 15 April at the Copper Box Arena go on sale at 11am on Wednesday, 15 February from ticketmaster.co.uk. Fans are encouraged to sign-up for Ticket Alerts to receive the ticket link directly to their inbox ahead of tickets going on sale.
With the current unified champion Oleksandr Usyk expected to fight for the status of undisputed against WBC ruler Tyson Fury this year, the 37-year-old Joyce will bolster his own heavyweight credentials by taking on the 6ft 6″ southpaw who resides in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
‘Big Bang’ Zhang, 24-1-1 (19 KOs) last saw action over in Jeddah in August when he fought in an IBF final eliminator against the Croatian Filip Hrgovic. The 39-year-old was declared the loser via the judges’ scorecards, but many commentators believed him to have won after dominating the early stages of the fight.
The Chinese fighter now gets the opportunity to put himself in the world title frame once again on what will be a first professional visit to the capital for the southpaw.
“It is a great fight,” reacted Joyce to his first defence being set. “He had a tough fight against Hrgovic but I thought he won the fight. Zhang is a big, strong southpaw who is massive, and he has been to the Olympics and all that. So, he has the experience and I think it will be a great fight.
“He bangs so I will have to watch out for it. As Hrgovic and I have a similar style, they had a great fight, so when we fight it should be entertaining.
“It will be carnage in the centre of the ring! I have lost my temper a few times in sparring and once was against a come-forward southpaw who was trying to knock me out. It was an exciting spar.
“I think with me and Zhang there will be real heavy punches exchanged and I am sure it will be a good fight. It will be a good preparation for Usyk or Fury, plus I haven’t fought a southpaw since I won the Commonwealth title against Lenroy Thomas.”
“It’s a new chapter in my career,” Zhilei Zhang added on the crunch heavyweight clash at the Copper Box. “I am always up for the challenge and when the opportunity rings the bell. Joe Joyce and I share a lot in common – we both are Olympic silver medalists, both are big punchers, and are nearly the same size. This is going to be an explosive, epic and tremendous fight.
“I want to thank my team and Joyce’s team for putting this together. I want all my fans in UK to show up and enjoy the event. Can’t wait to get in the ring on April 15th.”
“This is another cracker of a card that should be in keeping with the special night we all just enjoyed at Wembley,” said promoter Frank Warren. “We want to keep Big Joe busy while the heavyweight title scene unfolds but there can be no easy touches in a defence of his WBO Interim title. Zhilei Zhang is anything but an easy touch, he is a formidable powerhouse who can consider himself unlucky not to be still an unbeaten contender following his fight with Filip Hrgovic last year.
“Zhang being a southpaw ticks a significant box for Joe, with Usyk being a left-hander and Tyson carrying the ability to adopt either stance. That is what we want next for Joe and hopefully it will be a huge all-British collision against Tyson.”
“This is a great fight for boxing and a great opportunity for Zhilei,” said Terry Lane, Zhang’s manager. “Once again, he takes on a challenge that many are running from. There will be fireworks in London on 15 April.”