While all the talk right now is about that planned Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua superfight, Joe Joyce is also in position to make a big noise in the heavyweight division.
The 35-year-old former Olympic silver medallist is ranked number 2 with the WBO after that stunning upset win over highly-touted Daniel Dubois last November. He started as a firm underdog that night, but executed his gameplan to perfection to register a 10th-round knockout.
Londoner Joe (12-0 with 11 wins inside distance) now stands on the cusp of a showdown with WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk. The pair are likely to meet later this year – paving the way for Fury and Joshua to clash with the undisputed heavyweight championship on the line.
Joe Joyce on Usyk
Joyce is now just one fight away from a title shot, and knows Usyk well. He fought the former cruiserweight king in the amateurs, and is full of belief that he can avenge that defeat.
He told Sportinglife.com: “I’m ready for the next challenge and I’m used to being the underdog, it doesn’t faze me or bother me at all. I don’t feel pressure or nerves going into fights but my preparation for Usyk will be a complete contrast to what it was against Dubois.
“Whereas Dubois hits hard, is orthodox and you have to be wary about his power and how to avoid taking his shots cleanly, Usyk is a southpaw, a lot more nimble on his feet, has fast footwork, is much quicker and also has an amazing boxing brain. It’ll be a different kind of battle but one I’ll be ready for.”
Despite his confidence, Joyce has profound respect for Usyk (18-0), and the slick skills he brings to the table.
“He’s been in boxing a long time and had over 350 amateur bouts before he turned pro after winning Olympic gold when AJ did in 2012. He came into the pros and demolished the cruiserweight division, got all the titles and completed it!
“He’s stepping in with the big guys and won both his fights so far, including his last against the gatekeeper in Dereck Chisora, which was a good fight. It was pretty close but in the end he was too nimble and managed to do what he needed to for the win. Chisora put in his maximum effort but just found him too quick.”
Joyce on Fury and Joshua
The vsstly seasoned Joyce has also of course sparred with both Fury (30-0-1) and Joshua (24-1), so nobody has the inside track on Britain’s two world heavyweight champions.
He said: “I have experience of sharing the ring with both of them, especially Anthony Joshua for a long time on the Team GB team. I helped him prepare for the London 2012 and then when he did turn pro he was trained by Rob McCracken so that meant I would still spar with him ahead of his big fights.
“I also had the chance to spar with Tyson Fury and get to know him in his Big Bear training camp ahead of his first fight with Deontay Wilder so I don’t really want to pick a side.
“Sparring is great practice and you get a gauge for how they are inside the ring, but at the same time you are helping each other to become better and prepare for a certain challenge. At the back of your mind you always know you might meet them in a fight for real one day so you don’t want to get too close personally.
“It’s a 50-50 fight but if I’m pushed I might have to side with Fury based on their last two fights. They are both phenomenal boxers and they have their different skillsets and attributes which make this such a fascinating fight. It’s the biggest one for a long time, with so much at stake, and will decide once and for all who is number one.”