Joe Joyce paused for several seconds before he answered a question regarding who will win the intriguing heavyweight bout between Zhilei Zhang and Joseph Parker on March 8 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Joyce’s hesitation during an interview Thursday with stemmed from the very different results of his fights against the huge Chinese southpaw and rejuvenated Parker.

Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) stopped the usually durable Joyce due to severe swelling around his right eye in the sixth round of their first fight last April 15 at Copper Box Arena in London. The sharp, strong southpaw then brutally knocked out “The Juggernaut” late in the third round of their immediate rematch September 23 at OVO Arena Wembley in London.

In the bout before his first loss to Zhang, London’s Joyce knocked out Parker (34-3, 23 KOs), a former WBO champion who upset Deontay Wilder in his last fight.

Joyce didn’t necessarily pick Parker to win on the Anthony Joshua-Francis Ngannou undercard, but he hopes the resilient New Zealand native upsets the WBO interim champion in their pay-per-view co-feature because that would make a rematch with Parker a profitable option for Joyce. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist broke down Zhang-Parker after his comeback bout – a 10-rounder against Kash Ali on March 16 at Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, England.

“I’m hopeful Parker can do it,” Joyce told, “can beat Zhang and like be just a little bit more, I don’t know, smart and skillful than I was and get in there. But Zhang, he’s very accurate, and if he hits him with a good shot, he can put Parker down no problem.”

Joyce (15-2, 14 KOs) put Parker down with a crushing left hook in the 11th round of a 12-round bout Joyce was winning on all three scorecards in September 2022 at AO Arena in Manchester, England. Parker took Wilder’s renowned power well December 23, however, and outboxed the inactive former WBC champion to win a unanimous decision at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and ruined the Wilder-Joshua fight that was supposed to take place March 8 at the same venue.

His convincing victory over Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) extended Parker’s winning streak to four since his loss to Joyce, who is the only opponent to knock him out.

“Parker, I think he’s got more experience fighting southpaws,” Joyce said. “It’s a real interesting fight for me to see. Yeah, I’ve obviously fought them both. Zhang is very accurate. And he doesn’t throw a lot of shots, but with those shots, the shots that he does throw are very powerful and meaningful. Parker throws quite a lotta shots, he’s got a good chin, he’s durable and he’s got a good boxing brain. So, I think it’s a good fight.”

The 38-year-old Joyce can’t help but believe his first fight with Zhang would’ve unfolded differently if not for the swelling surrounding his right eye. The late-blooming, 40-year-old Zhang emphatically ended their rematch with a perfectly executed right hook, however, which made Joyce acknowledge he simply lost to a better fighter.

“Zhang is very good,” Joyce said. “Don’t get me wrong, he was very sharp and accurate and powerful as well – and tough. He’s tough as well. He can take a shot, too. So yeah, he’s one to be, people are gonna have to watch out for. And I’m really looking forward to this one against Joseph Parker, just being announced. That’ll be interesting to see how they get on.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.