Apr 17, 2023
A bumper crowd at Copper Box Arena witnessed an unforgettable night of boxing as Zhilei Zhang handed Joe Joyce his first professional loss, proving that the heavyweight division is as unpredictable as ever.
In a stunning turn of events, Joe Joyce's world-title ambitions were derailed as he suffered a sixth-round technical knockout loss to China's Zhilei Zhang in front of a record attendance of 5,600 at the London 2012 Games venue.
It marked the first professional defeat of Joyce's career while for Zhang it was the perfect response to his divisive first career defeat at the hands of Filip Hrgovic in their IBF title eliminator last August.
"I'm just disappointed with my performance, I think the right hand he kept hitting me with I couldn't get out of the way," Joyce told BT Sport in the ring post-fight.
"Respect to Zhilei Zhang, it was a good fight but I think I could have done better, I think because I haven't fought a southpaw for so long. Credit to him because he was a good fighter, and I gave it my all. I think I could do better but it's just disappointing.
"I kept on getting hit so I was disappointed and I'd like to apologise to all of my fans and supporters. But I also want to thank you for coming down here, I'll be back. My journey is not over, this is just a hurdle I may have tripped over so I'll be back.”
Promoter Frank Warren added: “Two absolute warriors who deserve all the credit in the world. Joyce will be back no questions. Congratulations to Zhilei Zhang who has been an absolute credit to himself.”
Referee Howard Foster stopped the fight as Joyce struggled with a swollen eye, having suffered repeatedly against the hard hitting of China's Zhang.
Joyce's swollen eye, inspected twice by the ringside doctor, was hindering his sight by the time Foster called a halt.
Copper Box Arena proved its worth as a boxing venue with a terrific atmosphere and attendance on the night, much to the delight of General Manager, Stuart Hutchison, who said: “It was an absolutely amazing atmosphere and a great fight that was watched by a record crowd. Overall it was a huge success and one of hopefully many to come.”