No one has a greater interest in following the developments of the Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk negotiations than London heavyweight Joe Joyce.
Fury, the WBC title holder, and Usyk, the WBO, WBA and IBF champion, have sparred verbally as they close in on a deal to fight for the undisputed heavyweight crown on April 29.
Of the champions’ mandatory challengers, Joyce is arguably the leading contender. He has previously beaten Daniel Dubois as a professional and has also defeated Filip Hrgovic in the World Series of Boxing when he was amateur.
Mostly recently he knocked out Joseph Parker in stunning fashion.
“If I wanted to make a statement, that was a statement there,” Joyce told Sky Sports‘ Toe2Toe podcast.
“Great fight though, a lot of respect to Parker, he proper pushed me all the way to the end. It was an exciting fight, it had good exchanges.
“I threw the kitchen sink, everything at him and eventually he went down.”
Like the rest of the sporting world he has been observing the progress of the Fury-Usyk negotiations.
“It’s kind of dragging on a bit,” Joyce said. “Fury’s got 70 per cent of it [the proposed fight purse], I guess it’s happening now.”
Joyce thinks Fury has enough time to prepare for April 29. “He’s started camp, I would imagine Usyk’s already in camp,” Joyce said. “Maybe he knows something we don’t.”
The likeable Londoner would happily to step in to fight either Fury or Usyk for a heavyweight world championship, even at short notice.
“Possibly,” he hinted. “I guess it’s a good back-up plan.”
More likely though Joyce will be pushing for his shot at the Fury-Usyk winner.
“At last. That would be something, wouldn’t it?” he said. “There’s been a lot of rematch clauses of late. They drag on, don’t they? It’s quite refreshing to hear that there isn’t one for this fight. I can jump in afterwards, fight the winner.”
Though he lost to Usyk in the World Series of Boxing, he’d prefer to pit himself against Fury.
“Usyk, I wouldn’t mind fighting again either. But Fury’s a bigger fight,” Joyce said.
“They’re going to get ‘Juggernauted’,” he declared.
“I’m confident in my abilities and I think it would be a great fight against either of them. But I really like the sound of the Fury fight.
“Can you imagine? Undisputed has a nice ring to it. Undefeated, undisputed maybe.”
On Zhilei Zhang fight
Joyce has demonstrated he deserves a place amongst the heavyweight elite. His next fight will be on April 15 against Zhilei Zhang. As an experienced, heavy-handed southpaw, China’s Zhang could be ideal preparation for an eventual fight with Fury or Usyk.
“I haven’t fought a southpaw since Lenroy Thomas so it’s good to get in there and practice,” Joyce said.
“Because as we know Usyk’s a southpaw and Fury can switch southpaw as well. Great preparation for the next round of competition.”
He believes his fight with Zhang could be another war, at least in the early going.
“I’d say the first five rounds he’d be pretty dangerous. He’s got the power and experience,” Joyce said.
“It’s going to be awkward because he’s a southpaw, had good amateur experience, Olympic silver medallist as well.”
He thinks Zhang was unlucky to lose a decision to Filip Hrgovic in his last bout. “It was a tough fight right to the end but I thought he did better overall and he was unlucky,” Joyce said.
“He was proper blowing in that last round. It’s a nice story because I beat Filip Hrgovic in the WSB, I’m fighting Zhang who unfortunately lost out to him.
“It’s an exciting fight, a risky opportunity but it’s a really good fight.”
On Yoka’s loss to Takam
Another of Joyce’s amateur rivals, France’s Tony Yoka did not fare well when fighting Carlos Takam, one of Joyce’s former professional opponents himself, last weekend.
“I’ve fought Takam and also sparred him last camp. He’s a good guy and it was good to see him get the victory. He boxed really well,” Joyce said.
“Yoka, I don’t know. I don’t see much difference from the amateurs especially in that performance. He’s holding his guard [tight]. The punches he did land were good punches but not that many.”
Joyce lost a highly controversial decision to Yoka in their Olympic super-heavyweight final at Rio 2016. But Joyce can compare how he has progressed with Yoka’s professional struggles.
“Where he was Olympic champion, he’s got too over-confident. His ego, and being able to pick his opponents,” Joyce said of Yoka.
“He was saying in an interview, I don’t think Joyce will do anything in the pros and it seems to have backfired.”