Zhilei Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) returned to London to take on the ‘juggernaut’ Joe Joyce (15-2, 14 KOs) in their highly anticipated heavyweight showdown.
The fight started very cagey with Joyce appearing to move more sensibly than the first bout, circling Zhang and attempting to keep away from his dangerous backhand. Both men pawed at each other’s lead hand and neither threw anything of note. However, it was too soon to know whether Joyce had made the correct adjustments to rectify his mistakes as in round two Joyce was clipped with a notable left hand and it suddenly was all too familiar.
This time Joyce appeared to freeze when caught and visibly lacked confidence. That been said, confidence is not an easy thing to achieve when you have suffered a knockout loss to the same fighter just months ago and could do little in the ring to escape that same shot. The antics of the first fight clearly taunted Joyce and he appeared to not want to be there once he felt Zhang’s power once again. In the third round, Zhang threw a straight left that opened Joyce up to a devastating right hook that sent the twenty stone man crashing to the canvas. Referee Steve Gray waved the bout off as Joyce clambered to his feet shortly after the bell.
Zhang had caught Joyce with a destructive shot that he simply couldn’t avoid, and the fight was over. This leaves serious questions regarding the heavyweight division. Should Zhang be next to challenge for a world title? Does this change the current rankings? Could Zhang beat either of the current world champions? Will either fighter accept Zhang as their next opponent?
With the state of the division, these are quite hard questions to answer. However, what can be said is that Zhang was all wrong for Joyce and fighting Zhang was a large risk that has now ultimately jeopardised his career. This leaves Zhang looking ahead toward a world title opportunity and Joyce left in a very difficult place. As a fellow Brit and likeable personality you have to feel for Joe Joyce as it is a long road back to revive his career after these back-to-back defeats.
After the bout, Zhang called out Tyson Fury. It is difficult to imagine the fight ever happening, with Fury fighting a debutant in Saudi Arabi next month and seemingly writing off his world level boxing career. However, with boxing we never really know. It is more likely we will see Zhang take on Oleksandr Usyk as the interim title to which he holds will take him down the mandatory WBO route. Only time will tell.
The undercard saw two of the most talented fighters in Queensbury’s roster in disappointing and underwhelming match ups. It is slightly more understandable with Zac Parker(23-1, 17 KOs) as he is returning to the ring after a hand injury in his last fight against John Ryder at the back end of last year however Anthony Yarde (24-3 , 23 KOs) has just given boxing fans a fight of the year contender against a top pound for pound fighter of this generation in Artur Beterbiev.
Despite the towel been thrown in by trainer Tunde Ajayi, Yarde brought the fight to the multi world champion and was happy to stand in the pocket and trade with such a devastating puncher. Yarde’s last-minute bout against Jorge Silva (22-9, 12 KOs) was a poor mismatch and is disappointing for boxing fans who see Yarde as a top operator in the Light heavyweight division.
That been said the opponent was initially supposed to be Ricky Summers, which is a slightly better match up, however it is still not good enough for Yarde at this stage of his career and is only slowing things down when he should really be back in bigger fights.
That is not to say Yarde does not want the big fights, it is more to do with the promotion and squeezing him into a card for the sake of activity and name value. The short-lasting fight saw Yarde rock Silva with a clean uppercut in the second round after a cagey first.
Slightly later in the round Yarde pinned Silva in the corner of the ring and dropped him with a chopping right hand to the temple. Yarde now looks ahead to big domestic fights in the light heavyweight division and will probably look at fighting the winner of Joshua Buatsi and Dan Azeez.
Zach Parker completely outclassed his opponent Khalid Graidia (10-13-4, 2 KOs), leading to the fighter retiring between rounds. The opening two rounds saw Parker completely outwork Graidia, with little coming back. In the third, Parker moved through the gears slightly, landing a notable body shot and boxing well off the jab. In the fourth and fifth, Parker continued to pick his opponent apart at range with little coming back. In the sixth, Parker landed a solid body shot before the bell and continued to box smart.
The seventh was a slower round as both men began to tire slightly despite Parker still clearly winning the rounds. However, just before the opening bell of the eighth round Graidia’s corner pulled the fight. Parker now looks to potentially campaign at light heavyweight and push on with his career. Anthony Yarde’s name was mentioned as a potential future opponent for Parker after the fight which is an intriguing matchup and easy to make with both fighting under the same stable.
Moving up to light heavyweight would theoretically be a good move for Parker due to all the belts at super middleweight been tied up by Canelo. The Canelo fight was within touching distance for Parker before he pulled out of his fight with John Ryder in between rounds due to a broken hand however that now may be a long road to go back down for the 29-year-old, hence why his move to light heavyweight might be beneficial for his career.
The card offered a better match up between Pierce O’Leary (13-0, 7 KOs)and Kane Gardner (16-3, 7 KOs), with O’Leary defending his WBC international super lightweight title. Gardner came into the fight off the back of a good win against Conah Walker back in March, which called for a solid match up and test on paper for O’Leary. This recent win reflects Gardner’s toughness after Conah Walker recently stopped Matchroom’s prospect Cyrus Pattinson in a gruelling firefight. Walker has also never been stopped as a professional and is a strong and durable opponent for anyone at 140 pounds.
O’Leary pushed Walker onto his back foot in the opening round of the fight and Walker stumbled backwards from a body shot later in the round as he walked into the shot off balance. Gardner was open to body shots often in the first few rounds due to his high guard as O’Leary whipped shots in round the side of his guard.
Gardner began to warm into the fight at the end of the fourth with O’Leary open to the left hook. Gardner got into his rhythm in the fifth and landed some good shots despite been behind on the cards from the early rounds. Blood began to pour from O’Leary’s eye late in the fifth from a nasty cut caused by a punch. Gardner was caught with a concussive shot to the temple in the sixth and began skipping backwards to give himself time to recover and ultimately hear the bell. This knocked Gardner’s confidence going into the seventh. O’Leary showboated off the ropes in the eighth to show he was now back in control of the fight.
Gardner showed his tenacity in the final round and landed some solid right hands that bounced off of O’Learys chin. This again showed that Gardner is a tough, solid contender at super lightweight despite O’Leary taking the fight on the cards.
Queensbury’s star heavyweight prospect Moses Itauma (5-0, 3 KOs)stopped Amine Boucetta (7-9, 0 KOs)in the first round. Once Itauma had dropped Boucetta with a well-timed left uppercut he jumped on him with a powerful flurry of shots. Itauma’s hand speed looked exceptional for a heavyweight as he went in for the finish.
Royston Barney-Smith (7-0, 3 KOs) took on Engel Gomez (8-18-1, 4 KOs)in a one-sided match up. In the opening round, Barney-Smith measured his opponent from his lead right hand looking to land clean power shots and began displaying his speed and precision from the opening bell. Barney-Smith slipped in a beautiful uppercut to the body in the second that caused his opponent to take the 10 count, off the back of a delayed reaction to the shot. In the third, Barney-Smith floored Gomez with another clean left uppercut.
Throughout the fight Gomez could not get close to Barney-Smith who continuously kept him on the end of a probing lead. The rounds will only benefit the teen who has plenty of time to make it to the top. However, the 19-year-old prospect may argue otherwise who recently told BBTV about his ambition to be Britain’s youngest world champion.
Also on the card, Ezra Taylor (7-0, 5 KOs) stepped up against Joel McIntyre (20-8, 5 KOs) at light heavyweight. The fight was a good match up at this stage of Taylor’s career and definitely a step-up fight considering McIntyres wealth of experience.
Taylor out landed McIntyre in the first however got slightly overconfident in the second with McIntyre landing a few in return. However, the more clean and effective work continued to come from Taylor, and he boxed well off the jab and kept composed throughout. Taylor began landing power shots in the fifth that he was having difficulties landing earlier in the fight and really put his foot on the gas early in the eighth and final round, displaying a quality engine.
With just one second to go in the fight Taylor managed to pull of the stoppage after pinning McIntyre to the ropes and landing a flurry of unanswered punches. This fight can only benefit Taylor in terms of progressing with his career, getting both the stoppage and the rounds.
Towering cruiserweight Tommy Fletcher (6-0, 5 KOs) took on Alberto Tapia (3-5 2 KOs) and added another stoppage win to his record. The Norfolk nightmare floored Tapia twice in the first round from body shots. In the second, Tapia was down twice again but continued to raise to his feet and show determination to continue.
In the third Tapia was down from a body shot yet again. In round three and four Fletcher was warned about low shots. The towel eventually came in in the fourth when Tapia was hurt to the head. Aged only 21 Fletcher looks a promising prospect, sparring with the likes of Joe Joyceand Jordan Thompson ahead of the biggest fights of their career.
Sean Noakes (6-0, 3 KOs) beat Lukasz Barabasz (2-9, 1 KO) on points at welterweight over six. Barabasz appeared to slip in the first round however the referee began counting, awarding this as a knockdown. In the second, Noakes landed a few right hands at will and then continued to do so throughout the fight despite Barabasz continuing to come forward which displayed his gameness up until the final bell.
Brother Sam Noakes, who was supposed to be on the card until his opponent pulled out, sat ringside cheering his older brother on through the rounds. Noakes revealed ringside that he had hurt his hand during the bout but appeared to remain composed despite this.