It was the first professional defeat of Joyce’s career, yet for Zhang, it was the perfect way to respond to his divisive first career defeat at the hands of Filip Hrgovic in their IBF title eliminator last August.
The Juggernaut relinquished his WBO Interim belt as Zhang produced a superb performance to force the referee to prevent further damage in the sixth round.
Joe Joyce was dealt a major blow in his pursuit of a world title shot. Severe swelling to his eye of Joyce by Zhang’s incredible power, the damage was raining buckets as Howard Foster was forced to step in at the midway point.
This was a match that would have made Joe get his coveted long ambition. Now the tall dream of being with Usyk or Joshua is dashed.
Zhang was ruthless, he breached Joyce’s defenses once more with an uppercut to snap Joyce s head back, leaving him with something to think about as the pair split at the end of the opening round.
The Chinese continued to pummel in the second and threatened to put Joyce to the canvas with an emphatic right-left combination that left the British stumbling towards the ropes before his countrymen. The punishment soon drew blood from the nose of Joyce, which by now was beginning to swell under the eye such was Zhang’s early dominance.
Hope was a bit lightened up when Joyce’s best spell arrived in the fifth, he managed to force Zhang into a retreat, but that got him another snappy left hand for good measure. The pace of the fight then began to show as the pair grappled at the middle of the ring, but the pause was only momentary as Joyce, whose eye was continuing to bulge, pushed off and sought to get to work to recoup lost rounds.
The referee had to stop the fight. Dillian White was in attendance hoping for a shot against a “victorious” British man.