Joe Joyce was rooting for Daniel Dubois to knock off Oleksandr Usyk.
Dubois is a fellow British boxer, a former teammate on Great Britain’s amateur squad and they’re both represented by Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions. If Dubois had upset Ukraine’s Usyk, Joyce knew avenging his own loss to Zhilei Zhang on Saturday night in London would’ve set up a marketable domestic rematch between Dubois and Joyce for the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles.
While all those factors made perfect business sense to Joyce, the former WBO interim champion couldn’t help but feel annoyed while watching Dubois get a title shot he believes he should’ve received before he took what was ultimately too risky of an optional fight against Zhang.
Joyce knocked out Dubois (19-2, 18 KOs) in the 10th round of their November 2020 bout in London, but Dubois later won the WBA’s secondary crown and moved in front of Joyce in line for a title shot because the WBA was ahead of the WBO in the rotation agreed upon by boxing’s sanctioning organizations. Uysk (21-1, 14 KOs) knocked Dubois down once apiece in the eighth and ninth rounds and won by ninth-round knockout August 26 at Tarczynski Arena Wroclaw, a soccer stadium in Wroclaw, Poland.
Joyce agreed to fight China’s Zhang because the WBA and the IBF were ahead of the WBO in the rotation for mandatory challengers and Joyce didn’t want to be inactive while waiting for a title shot. Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) upset Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) by sixth-round technical knockout April 15 at Copper Box Arena in London, but Joyce activated the immediate rematch clause in his contract for that optional title defense.
“It was frustrating that it was the guy I beat convincingly that got the shot before me,” Joyce told BoxingScene.com. “And it bothers me that I was once the WBA gold [champion] and paid the sanctioning fees, and then I was completely out of that [mix]. That’s a route I could’ve taken, but I did the WBO route and I’m in that position again. But to have to lose to Zhang, when I was so close and I could’ve just waited and took a different shot, it was quite a hard time and lesson to learn.”
London’s Joyce took his time before he exercised his rematch clause, but the 2016 Olympic silver medalist realized that not fighting Zhang again right away wouldn’t have made much sense because he will turn 38 on Tuesday.
“I don’t really have time to piece my way back another way, so I have to,” Joyce said. “Because I could’ve had a fight in the meantime. Someone could’ve fought Zhang instead or Zhang could’ve had that opportunity at the WBO [title]. But this is why I enacted the immediate rematch [clause], so I can get back in position.”
TNT Sports will televise the Zhang-Joyce rematch in the United Kingdom and Ireland as the main event of a multi-bout broadcast from OVO Arena Wembley (7 p.m. BST). ESPN+ will stream their second fight in the United States, where undercard coverage is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EDT and 11 a.m. PDT.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.