Joe Joyce eyes spectacular knockout heavyweight rivals can’t ignore
28th June 2022

Joe Joyce fights Christian Hammer this weekend

Joe Joyce was the big lad from the Rio Olympics in the super-heavyweight final. The nice guy, the smiling guy with the art degree and the tasteful little bit of capoeira at the end of each win.

He lost a tight decision, never made a fuss, turned professional, beat good men, forced Daniel Dubois to take a knee, trained in Las Vegas and has become the most avoided heavyweight in the sport right now. Rio seems like a long, long time ago.

Right now, Joyce is unbeaten in 13 fights as a professional; he is ranked and rated by the boxing insiders, outsiders, fixers, shakers and connoisseurs. And, most of the sanctioning bodies.

Joyce is now 36, a late bloomer even at heavyweight in a business where youth can be a big handicap. The years are misleading; Joyce is fresh and ready.

At the moment, Joyce is arguably the fifth or sixth best heavyweight in the world and undoubtedly the most avoided. Nobody talks trash and wants to fight Joyce and lose their position. Joyce, it has to be said, never talks trash about anybody; Joyce would fight anybody.

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On Saturday, Joyce fights a man called Christian Hammer, who has tested his chin, heart and bravery against some of the finest in the division. Hammer has lost nine times to some big names in big fights; Tyson Fury stopped him in 2015, Alexander Povetkin outpointed him in 2017. He is, however, more than just a loser; Hammer can extend good boxers, make them work the distance and that is why Joyce is fighting him. Joyce has to do a better job than some of the other contenders that have beaten Hammer. Boxing, as I always say, is a simple business to understand. There is very little actual science in the game, but there are certain measures that we like to parade as solid fact.

Earlier this year, Hammer lost on points over ten rounds to the Cuban, Frankie Sanchez, known in boxing as the Cuban Flash. Sanchez is listed as 29, but he must have had a very hard paper-round. It was not much of a spectacle and Sanchez, who was fresh from an easy win over the hyped and limited, Efe Ajagbu, was being touted as the “most avoided heavyweight” in the sport. Rubbish, by the way. Sanchez is big and slow and well-schooled and he beat the previously unbeaten Ajagbu easily.

So, on Saturday, Joyce has to do a better job than Sanchez. It really is that easy – there are no hidden equations to factor in; Joyce has to get Hammer out of there fast and easy and painfully. Simple, bosh.

Joe Joyce celebrates his victory over Daniel Dubois

“I just get in there and take care of the business I have to take care of,” Joyce said. “I will keep winning and I will get a title chance.”

Joyce’s heavyweight landscape is complicated by the transitory state of Tyson Fury, who in the last few days has confirmed that he will both never fight again and that he will also announce his next fight in the coming few weeks. Bob Arum, meanwhile, is Fury’s promoter in the US and he announced at the end of last week that Joyce against Fury in October at Wembley Stadium was possible. How do you plan a career with that much misleading mayhem circling above your head?

In August, Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua have their rematch in Saudi Arabia and that means the three belts they will fight over are out of bounds for a few months. Joyce is a mandatory for the WBO, but that really doesn’t mean that much when massively financial fights are being arranged. Joyce is mandated to fight the winner of the August 20th fight between Usyk and Joshua.

The sanctioning bodies are paid a percentage of what the fight is worth and not a set fee per fight. So, the Saudi affair is a glorious earner for the three sanctioning bodies and one that they would all be prepared to change their rules to make happen yet again. Joyce being a mandatory sounds nice, but in the real world it means very little.

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Joyce will win on Saturday, look good doing it and convince a lot more people that he is a genuine contender. He will also convince a lot more managers and promoters that he is a man to be avoided. It might just be a long, long wait before Joyce gets his chance at a world heavyweight title. He would handily beat just about every fighter in the division and that is what makes him the most avoided heavyweight in the world right now.

Big Joe would give Usyk, Joshua and even Fury a headache on any given night. He will, instead, just have to keep waiting patiently for what he has been promised. His promoter, Frank Warren, understands the boxing waiting game. They will not be holding their breath anytime soon waiting on a dream. Big Joe will do a good job on Hammer at Wembley on Saturday to get closer to something.

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