Joe Joyce is gunning for a summer showdown with either Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk next year.
Fury and Usyk are expected to fight for the undisputed heavyweight title early in 2023, with Joyce anticipating a bout with the winner.
He is well placed for that shot. Joyce holds the WBO’s ‘interim’ title and will be the mandatory challenger for the belt that Usyk currently holds.
Although Daniel Dubois, the mandatory for Usyk’s WBA belt, should be due to get his challenge in before Joyce, he has an injury to recovery from and might not be ready for a major fight until later in the year.
Joyce himself intends to take a warm-up in March, to prepare him for a stadium fight with the Fury-Usyk winner later in the year.
“I’m planning to have a fight in March, while all the others are taking a fight,” Joyce told Sky Sports.
“For the summer one [I plan to] go for a big one, like Usyk or Fury. I’ll be ready because I’ll have had one at the beginning of the year to get me going.”
Joyce, with an undefeated 15-0 professional record, does not want to just sit on his ranking and wait for the winner between Fury and Usyk without fighting.
“I don’t understand why people do that. It makes them rusty for when they do get the shot and also their skills as well, you always want to keep on improving your skills and learning and growing as a fighter and correcting any mistakes, and getting in these exciting fights for the fans,” Joyce explained.
“It is entertainment, not just let me hold on to my ‘0’ [undefeated record]”
In preparation for what would be a hotly anticipated summer contest with one of the heavyweight division’s current world champions, Joyce would like his next opponent to be a southpaw: “Fury switches southpaw and Usyk’s a southpaw so it would be a good idea,” he noted.
The Londoner is firmly in the mix to get a fight with one of the champions. At the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium earlier this month, once he saw Usyk stepping into the ring to confront Tyson Fury after the latter had beaten Derek Chisora, Joyce didn’t want to be outdone.
He joined Fury and Usyk in the ring and all three heavyweights ended up facing off.
“That was funny and fun at the same time,” Joyce laughed. “Fury started revving up and then I revved up with him. It was good fun and Usyk was just there staring at Fury.”
The ‘world’s toughest man’?
After his fight with Chisora, Fury spoke highly of Joyce and put the rival Briton firmly on his own agenda for next year.
The two have sparred before, when Fury was overweight and out of shape before making a comeback. However they sparred more seriously in a training camp in Big Bear in California when Fury was preparing for his first fight with Deontay Wilder.
“It’s tough in Big Bear anyway. You have to be a tough man to be training there. You do long rounds and runs every morning, you do lots of ab work, it really trains you to be a beast, a tank,” Joyce said.
Fury has called him “the world’s toughest man” and said: “I do think the biggest challenge out there for me is Joe Joyce.”
“I believe it to be so,” Joyce said cheerfully.
He pointed out: “[Fury] studies the heavyweights, he’s been in the sport all his life, he knows what he’s talking about and especially sharing the ring, sparring, it was competitive back there in Big Bear. Fury raises his game, as I do, and he can do the 12 rounds, he can throw a lot of punches, he’s very skilful, so it’s going to be a battle to the end.”
Squaring up to Fury on Saturday wasn’t the first time Joyce had been in a ring with Oleksandr Usyk. When he was an amateur boxer he lost a decision to the Ukrainian in a five round bout in the World Series of Boxing.
Now as a top class professional, he wants to see how Usyk can cope against him in a 12 round championship fight.
“He’s a tricky boxer and I’m coming for him,” Joyce said. “It’ll be an exciting fight because he can live with me till the 12th round. He showed that against Joshua. However Joshua wasn’t throwing as many punches as I would.
“When someone hasn’t got power I tend to step in. With Usyk it’s about landing the punches. He sets traps, he’s a very tricky boxer and moves his head, good footwork and steps in and out of range avoiding shots so he’s quite hard to hit. So you can have as much punch power as you want but if you’re not landing the shots then there’s no point.
“But because I throw such a variety of shots, a lot of them will be the ones that get through and start wearing him down over the 12 rounds. I’m sure he won’t be able to hack it after a certain point.
“He won’t be able to keep up.”
AJ might not want it, but the public will call for it
Usyk isn’t the only big name heavyweight Joyce has an amateur past with. He wasn’t only a long-time sparring partner for Anthony Joshua, they also boxed in the London final of the 2011 ABA Championships.
Joshua won by first round stoppage in that long-distant amateur bout and has declared he’d do the same again, with Joyce taking exception to the former heavyweight world champion’s “gloating”.
Back then Joyce had boxed in the semi-final of the competition in the afternoon, beating Dominic Akinlade who was fighting southpaw, before his evening contest with Joshua.
“Then when I fought Joshua I still had the southpaw mindset so I was walking on to his right hand and got three counts in the first round. We can right them wrongs in the pros. They [the referees] are not going to jump in prematurely in the pros,” Joyce said.
“I won’t have to fight twice, I’ll fight once and beat him!”
“He was gloating,” Joyce added. “That’s what kind of triggered me.”
He hopes public demand for that fight will grow: “I haven’t overtaken him yet because I’m not heavyweight champion yet, I haven’t earned the cash that he’s earned!” he said.
“He never mentions my name for some reason,” Joyce said of a potential Joshua fight.
“I don’t know if he’s going to want to take it but maybe the public’s going to call for it, the fans are going to call for it eventually and get it made. Joshua’s still very marketable and sells out stadiums.
“I’m getting to that level now so it would be good to have a showdown in London, north versus south.”
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