Joe Joyce the biggest threat to Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk for world titles

In his latest column, former Olympian and heavyweight contender Frazer Clarke looks ahead to the war between Joe Joyce and Zhilei Zhang and guesses what could be next for Anthony Joshua after this week’s announcement.

Joyce vs Zhang must-watch heavyweight action

The action continues this weekend with two modern day heavyweights in Joe Joyce and Zhilei Zhang going to war.

Both are very big, very heavy-handed with a great pedigree behind them so this one ticks a lot of boxes. Both are in the latter stages of their careers but fighting at a very high level which is something I can get behind too. A lot gets said about my age but to see these two at the top level in a massive fight at the ages at 37 and 39, it is a good thing for me too.

I have been very impressed with both fighters throughout their careers. Both men have shown over the years, from their amateur days and into the professional game, just how competitive they are, they have been in there with everyone and are not afraid of fighting anyone at this stage. It is massive credit to them and I think the winner is in a superb position heading into the second-half of the year.

A win here will enhance Joyce as a fighter and his position in line for a world title shot. It would be absolutely massive for Zhang too. He is coming off the back of probably one of the craziest heavyweight fights I have ever seen against Filip Hrgovic last year, he didn’t get the nod that night but he put himself right back in the mix.

Zhang will feel right at home at the top of the division alongside guys like Joyce. When you have got the power and experience he has got, you are trouble for anyone.

I think Joyce is equal to a lot of that, we know how hard he hits people and he is a very experienced fighter in his own right now. He is maybe a step ahead however in terms of where he is at physically. Those first five or six rounds will be very interesting.

Joyce ready to test Fury and Usyk

I believe Joyce poses a bigger threat to Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk than the other mandatory fighters around him at the minute.

His style would be very effective against any of the champions and they would find it difficult living with that. Daniel Dubois and Filip Hrgovic are great, great fighters as well. Hrgovic, the IBF mandatory, has terrific pedigree and Dubois, the WBA mandatory in line to fight Usyk next, is one of the hardest hitters in the division. But Joyce is probably posing the biggest threat among that crop.

If the title shot isn’t next for Joe, the Anthony Joshua fight would be a very interesting option. I think it’s probably more the people around Joe at the minute talking that one up. We know he is a man of few words and if you’re part of his team or management you would be doing everything you can to get that AJ fight.

Things from the past inevitably come up, I have seen a few interviews where those sort of things from the amateur days have emerged. But that is the way in the heavyweight division, especially when you have that amateur background. The day will come where you have to fight guys you once considered friends.

I wouldn’t say it is a serious beef but there is a story there and it is two of the best heavyweights out of London in a long time. London would love to see Joshua vs Joyce. It’s a huge fight for that alone.

Joshua’s mysterious next move

On the subject of Joshua, this week we saw him appear to confirm he will not be fighting again until December. I have not spoken to AJ, I am sure he’s gone on a well-deserved holiday at this point. But I imagine it is one of two things. Either there is something massive in the pipeline or there is a small injury.

I can’t see any other reason for it. He wanted to box three times this year, he even stated he wanted to be out again in 12 weeks after beating Jermaine Franklin at the start of the month. Eddie Hearn of course wanted him to box three times this year too. I’m guessing unless there is an injury there, there is something massive in the pipeline. If it is something massive, let’s get on with the announcement!

Joyce vs Zhang prediction

I think Joe gets the job done on Saturday. I can see Zhang giving him a few sticky moments but nothing he is not used to. Against Joseph Parker last September, that was the best we have seen him perform as a professional. He is a in a real good place.

I haven’t spoke to Joe in a while but he has been out in Las Vegas for camp for a while and it seems to be a really good place for him.

We all remember what he did against Parker with that knockout but it wasn’t all just brute force, the things he was doing boxing-wise were a lot better.

Zhang is a bit of a unique style to come up against, he has a very high, solid guard fighting out of that southpaw stance so we’ll see a clever fight from Joe. I believe he will show us he has another string to his bow at the top of this division.

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