Joyce vs Zhang Undercard Sees British, Commonwealth Champions And A World #1 Return To Action
The ‘Big Juggernaut’ Joe Joyce (15-0, 14 KOs) is back in action as he puts his WBO Interim World Heavyweight title on the line against Chinese southpaw, ‘Big Bang’ Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) this Saturday, April 15 at London’s 8,000-capacity Copper Box Arena, Live on BT Sport and ESPN +.
Joyce, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, is closing in on a shot at the world Heavyweight title but with unified champion Oleksandr Usyk tasked with mandatory challengers Daniel Dubois and Fillip Hrgovic first, the 37-year-old will have to wait his turn.
The consensus division top 5 stopped Dubois in the eleventh round in their 2020 behind-closed-doors bout but with the unpredictability and flawed nature of boxing, it comes of little surprise that Duobis will get his title chance before Joyce, despite not beating any real fighters of note since.
The Juggernaut stopped former world champion Joseph Parker on his pay-per-view debut in front of a good crowd at Manchester’s AO Arena last September, another fight which many saw as 50-50 going in. Joyce’s fight with Zhang, however, is off the PPV platform and will be available as part of your regular subscription.
No easy fights and no long periods of inactivity, Joyce will fight another top-15 Heavyweight in the form of Zhilei Zhang. Many felt that Zhang, who works with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, should’ve got the decision against IBF mandatory Hrgovic last August.
The official result went against the 2008 Olympic silver medalist but he gets another chance at being the mandatory challenger for the unified titles in his bout with Joyce. A must-win for both Joe Joyce and Zhilei Zhang and a ‘can’t-miss’ encounter.
Joe Joyce vs Zhilei Zhang Undercard Title Fights
Former unified super featherweight champion Mikaela Mayer (17-1, 5 KOs) looks to earn a rematch with her bitter rival Alycia
Baumgardner (13-1, 7 KOs), in 2023. Baumgardner narrowly outpointed Mayer via a split decision on the historic Shields Marshall card late last year.
Baumgardner’s Promoter Eddie Hearn presented highly-rated 2-0 prospect Beatriz Ferreira as the means for Mayer to earn a second fight but the American was understandably dismissive of this proposition and has instead gone a different avenue to secure an opportunity at all of the 130-pound marbles.
Mayer will face the only fighter to beat Baumgardner in a professional ring, Greece’s former super lightweight champion Christina Linardatou (14-2, 6 KOs). Mayer is hoping a win over Linardatou will elevate the public interest in the rematch and put some pressure on Baumgardner to accept a second encounter.
Linardatou has faced some quality opposition in her career with her two defeats coming at the hands of Delfine Persoon and P4P #1 Katie Taylor.
Denzel Bentley (17-2-1, 14 KOs) will defend his British Middleweight championship against Scotland’s Kieran Smith (18-1, 7 KOs).
Bentley’s contest with Smith is a voluntary defence and the second time he puts his Lonsdale crown on the line. Bentley won the title with a split decision over Linus Udofia last May and in his sole defence stopped Marcus Morrison in 4 rounds in September.
Bentley was given a surprising world title opportunity against Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly in November which he took with both hands even though most pundits didn’t give him a remote chance. Although the Londoner was beaten on points, he put up an impressive challenge and a performance that definitively puts him above domestic level.
The mandatory challenger for the belt is Hamzah Sheeraz, who is also with Queensberry, and that is expected to be formally ordered should Bentley win on Saturday. Bentley-Sheeraz has captured the attention of fight fans for over a year now and it looks likely to come to fruition in 2023.
Sam Noakes (10-0, 10) defends his WBC International Silver and Commonwealth lightweight titles against unbeaten Indian Karthik Sathish Kumar (10-0, 4 KOs).
Kumar, who has never fought outside of Asia, is unheralded and shouldn’t give Noakes too many problems. Noakes has a perfect KO streak and is looking to extend that at the Copper Box before jumping into bigger fights later this year.
Non-Title Joyce vs Zhang Card
Moses Itauma is back for a third outing in under 80 days.
Itauma, just 18, moved to 2-0 as a professional in Telford last month where he inflicted a first defeat on the Argentinean Ramon Ibarra.
The World and European youth gold medallist will step up to six-round action against Kostiantyn Dovbyshchenko (9-12-1). Dovbyshchenko has never been stopped and takes some decent operators the distance but none with the potential of Itauma. A legitimate inside-the-distance win would be a solid statement.
Sonny Ali (5-0) competes for the sixth time against Richard Helm (1-14-1), Eithan James (10-0) has a warm-up fight against journeyman Georgi Velichkov (3-12), a second pro outing for Seth Gyimah (1-0) against Darryl Sharp (7-104-1) and Joel Kodua (1-0) is back.
Joyce vs Zhang Fight Night Details
A 9-fight card which features former unified champion Mikaela Mayer, domestic title holders Denzel Bentley, Sam Noakes and more is scheduled to begin at 5:30 pm BST (12:30 pm ET, 9:30 am PT) with the main card a little while later at 7 pm BST (2 pm ET, 11 am PT) on BT Sport 1 and ESPN +.
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Main Event Ring Walks will take place at approximately 10:30 pm BST (5:30 pm ET, 2:30 pm PT). Stay tuned to NoSmokeSport.com for more details about the undercard, running order, and fight week updates as they happen. Tickets for the event, starting at £60, are still available.
Joe Joyce vs Zhilei Zhang – 12 Rounds Heavyweight – Sat April 15– Copper Box Arena, London – Live On BT Sport