This article originally appeared on Steve Wellings’ Substack
Straight after Saturday evening’s main event in Wembley, defeated heavyweight Joe Joyce ambled out of the ring before conducting any post-fight interviews. It wasn’t a petulant refusal, like many of the early exits when a defeated fighter storms out rather than face the in-ring interviewer.
Joyce is a quiet, unassuming character who struggles to articulate his emotions at the best of times. On this occasion, the big man just needed a minute to collect his thoughts before meeting the backstage YouTube clan to insist that he would carry on fighting.
What people say and what they do are often different things. Whether Joyce has another run towards world titles is debatable, although the pot of gold on offer to half-decent heavyweights of all states and shapes dictates that they sweep up a few more paydays before actually hanging up the gloves.
In the opposite corner, while Joyce soaked up the misery of a comprehensive third-round KO loss, Zhilei Zhang was making his own feelings known through an interpreter. The big Chinaman wants Tyson Fury next – and why wouldn’t he? While the cash cow of the division is off entertaining cross-discipline battles, he will inevitably return to the noble art and seek out an opponent. At this moment, Zhang is as qualified as any other.
For a while, it seemed that granite-chinned Joyce could present as a viable Fury option. Joe even scaled the ropes after Fury defeated Derek Chisora last year to offer his services. That now seems a lifetime away as the once immovable object was stopped for the second time in succession. Joyce’s eye was forcibly closed the first time when Zhang ran away with his WBO Interim bauble.
The second win was even more conclusive. Zhang repeatedly tagged a sluggish, overweight opponent who could not evade the left hand. Turns out the left was the least of his worries. Slipping to avoid that very shot in the third round, Joyce walked on to a right hook of epic proportion.
Valiantly attempting to rise and carry on pitching, the Ismael Salas-trained heavyweight rocked and wobbled before referee Steve Gray counted him out. ‘Big Bang’ Zhang explained how he liked Joyce, and there was no malice between the pair. We all like Joyce. He’s a gentleman who fights hard and holds some solid wins just below the top level.
It’s doubtful that he will leave the remaining money on the table and bow out. Even at 38, the former Olympian will want to prove to others as well as himself that he can rebuild and rebound. Joyce needs to make sure that he doesn’t become cannon fodder for fighters on the way up, eager to pick off a name in their ascent to the top. Much like Joyce was doing in the not-so-recent past. Boxing moves along quickly.
CAN JERMELL CHARLO TIP SLIDING CANELO OVER THE EDGE?
It was a curveball fight that caught the boxing community by surprise. One day Eddie Hearn was suggesting potential future opponents for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on DAZN. The next he was signing a deal with Showtime and the PBC. Just when Jermall Charlo was in line to get the call, undisputed super-welterweight king Jermell instead moved up two weight classes to accept the opportunity of a lifetime. As mentioned above, this sport moves fast.
With over 60 fights across a career that began 18 years ago at the tender age of 15, Canelo has a lot of miles on the clock. Having matured like a fine wine, now gradually declining but is nowhere near done yet. Does the Mexican have enough to first repel Charlo and then at least two more fighters as part of his new three-fight deal with the PBC? Finding new motivations and goals to achieve can be difficult for a fighter who has achieved it all.
Fond of the party lifestyle, Canelo may well find it hard to remain motivated with so many achievements and accumulation of money. Finding new motivations and goals to achieve has led the ginger assassin away from Eddie Hearn and DAZN and over to Showtime.
Charlo could take a few pointers from Dmitry Bivol’s treatment of Canelo last year when the Russian sent a seismic shock through the entire sport. The unassuming Bivol wasn’t overawed or intimidated by Canelo’s status or reputation. He also didn’t fall for Canelo’s trickery, like the feints, solid arm punches and subtle moves to lull him into range for punishment. Bivol found the right amount of space, did his work and got back out of dodge.
Charlo is a sizeable fighter. If he can manage to utilise his strong jab, push Canelo back and take the control away from him, then things could get interesting. Canelo is now comfortable at super-middleweight. The venture up to light-heavy was just a step too far. While Sergey Kovalev may have folded once the tank emptied, Bivol refused to let Alvarez set the pace and time him with counter combinations.
Even though Charlo has unified an entire division and enjoyed life-changing money in the process, he will have been thrust into the limelight never before. The aura and carnival that follow Canelo around is a different story. Opponents suddenly realise the magnitude of fighting him.
Aware of this, Charlo has taken the challenge and accepted the big payday just when we all thought his absent twin brother was set to get the chance. Despite his status as a boxer, fighting Canelo places him in an even wider sporting shop window. Jermell is the rematch king. Gaining revenge over both Tony Harrison and Brian Castano, Charlo and coach Derrick James are able to make adjustments the second time around.
Many people thought that Argentina’s Castano won the first Charlo fight. His work rate was exemplary, and he hurt Charlo on the ropes at times, tagging both head and body. Charlo was more aggressive in the rematch, making him miss and making him pay, firing back to the body himself, offering a taste of Castano’s own medicine.
In the rematch, Charlo offered better early movement, a great jab and right hand. Forcing Castano back, dictating terms, staying off the ropes, mixing things up and stepping off at the right times. This checklist of solid adjustments eventually wore Castano down and exposed his leaky defence.
Learning the lessons against Castano is one thing, but Canelo is a different beast. If Charlo can acclimatise and retain his speed at a higher weight, then he has a chance of being competitive. Being the bigger man helps, but it’s not an exclusive asset. Callum Smith, weight drained as he was, was much bigger, but size alone isn’t enough to beat Canelo. Going back to Bivol’s victory, speed, versatility and sensible aggression are all needed.
In conclusion…it is unlikely Charlo can replicate that output and mindset. Canelo will take more risks as the fight goes on, especially if he perceives the fight to be close or that he is behind on the cards. Setting traps and lying on the ropes can only suffice for so long.
The hands must go. In the final four rounds against Bivol, he didn’t go for broke, and it cost him. Charlo will do well early on, but as the fight goes on, he may feel the full effects. A stoppage would be a strong Canelo statement. The Mexican on points is the safest bet.
Richardson Hitchens always seems to be a few extra punches away from laying down a marker and halting overmatched foes. First, John Bauza and, at the weekend, Jose Zepeda managed to hear the final bell despite seemingly hanging on the verge of a stoppage.
Hitchens has all of the skills but is risk-averse to the point of tedium. Promoter Eddie Hearn will be hoping Hitchens finds the vicious streak he is so clearly missing to help spearhead a DAZN revival.
Yarde back on the trail Photo Credit – BT Sport (TNT Sports)
Anthony Yarde got a supposed rust shedder on Saturday evening when he blasted away hapless import Jorge Silva in two rounds. Not much of a WD-40 dose for Yarde, who barely had to move into second gear.
About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 400 eps. 20 years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief video script writer for Motivedia channel and BN+. For enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.