Jonathan Nagioff takes a close look at the ‘Juggernaut’ Joe Joyce, his past present and future
At 33 years old, British heavyweight Joe Joyce has now established himself as a serious contender in the blue-riband division and takes the next step on July 13, meeting veteran former world title contender Bryant Jennings at the O2.
The Olympic silver medallist had a prolonged amateur career, eventually making the switch to the paid ranks just prior to his 32nd birthday with a powerful stoppage victory over compatriot Ian Lewison in October 2017, after losing out on Olympic glory controversially to Frenchman Tony Yoka in Rio.
However, two years on from turning over plenty has changed for the south Londoner and, against Jennings, Joyce can make another important stride as he looks to extend his unblemished record to 10-0.
The early stages
Joyce has certainly been fast-tracked on his professional journey and can you really blame him or his advisors with the “Juggernaut” not getting any younger? His nine straight wins should not be understated, featuring as they do some high-profile opponents many would avoid until far later in their careers. As mentioned, Joyce went straight in at a decent level to face fellow Brit Ian Lewison on his debut. Joyce, unfazed and calm throughout, forced a stoppage within eight rounds, whereas Dillian Whyte had taken eight rounds to overcome Lewison a year earlier.
The Putney-born puncher soon had his hands around his first major title, making history to become the first heavyweight to claim the Commonwealth strap in just his fourth outing as a professional, blasting past Jamaican Lenroy Thomas inside two rounds.
Two further impressive, yet albeit expected victories over former world title challengers Bermane Stiverne and Alexander Ustinov have opened his 2019 account. A victory over Jennings on Saturday would confirm Joyce’s status as a fringe world-level challenger at the very worst.
Trainer and team changes
From an outsider looking in, Joyce has seemingly racked up nine consecutive victories without much of a fuss. However his unbeaten streak and guidance under manager Sam Jones and Adam Morallee, alongside Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports, have been the only constants in his short professional climb.
Joyce has switched between three trainers and three promoters in less than two years but looks to have finally settled with highly acclaimed coach Adam Booth, whilst leaving the fight-staging to Frank Warren in association with Ringstar.
The “Juggernaut” naturally dedicates his early success to former promoter David Haye, who launched his career with Hayemaker Promotions alongside Schaefer. Following Haye’s shock first defeat to Tony Bellew, the former two-weight world champion parted company with Shane McGuigan, bringing in Cuban Ismael Salas who also took on Joyce.
Joe’s victory over Thomas was on the undercard of Haye’s blockbuster rematch with Bellew, however defeat for the Londoner spelled the end of a 16-year career and Salas moved into semi-retirement.
Joyce and Haye also ended their brief affiliation, but Schaefer remained on board with Jones and Morallee, and Joyce headed to Big Bear to link up with middleweight world champion, Gennady Golovkin’s then-coach Abel Sanchez, whilst veteran American ‘advisor’ Al Haymon joined the team to grow Joyce’s brand even further.
The Sanchez-Joyce pairing only lasted three fights, including victory over Deontay Wilder’s former two-time victim Bermane Stiverne last year, as well as sparring with Tyson Fury ahead of the latter’s December classic with the “Bronze Bomber”. Although, with Joyce opting to return to the UK, there was no other option but to part company and whilst talks reportedly took place with Eddie Hearn, Warren snapped up the unbeaten heavywweight, with Adam Booth, Haye’s former trainer, taking the reins in the gym. Funny how boxing works out!
Joyce must surely step up a gear on Saturday night as he faces another tough test in the form of experienced American Bryant Jennings. The 34-year-old has just three losses on his record, taking Wladimir Klitschko the distance in 2015, although he was knocked out in the final round by Dillian Whyte’s next adversary, Oscar Rivas, in January.
It’s a high-risk clash but the rewards definitely outweigh any danger of defeat. Ultimately, the question is what does Jennings have left in the tank? A knockout defeat is never ideal preparation, especially when heading over to another fighter’s backyard, plus his best wins over the likes of former WBO champion, Siarhei Liakovich and ex-world title challenger Artur Szpilka were as long as seven years ago, suggesting he is past his best.
However, Jennings does hold a potentially crucial advantage in that he has fought at the elite level, albeit falling short, while Joyce is yet to really reach the same heights.
Joyce’s bout with Jennings is part of a double heavyweight showdown at the O2, with Joe’s promotional stablemates Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman facing off for the vacant British heavyweight title. With Dubois, Gorman and Joyce under the same Queensbury Promotions banner, future matchups between them appear inevitable and won’t be difficult to make in an era where the most exciting potential fights often fall by the wayside.
The British Boxing Board of Control had initially ordered Joyce vs Dubois for the Lonsdale Belt. However, the “Juggernaut” passed up the chance for the lure of an even bigger fight, enabling Gorman to step in. Joyce’s manager Sam Jones even threw his man’s name into the hat to face Anthony Joshua when Jarrell Miller was forced to pull out of a scheduled fight after failing several drug tests. But there again, almost every heavyweight cleared the calendar for the golden ticket on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.
Former world title challengers Alexander Povetkin and Dereck Chisora were both mooted as Joyce opponents. The latter was the prime target when David Haye promoted Joyce, but now as manager of Chisora will Haye be willing to entertain the same fight, with the shoe on the other foot? European champion Agit Kabayel could also be lined up before the year is out, with Joyce the mandatory challenger for both the German’s belt and, as WBA Gold champ, the strap held by Regular titlist Manuel Charr. The Kabayel fight would make sense for Joyce considering the EBU ruler is ranked highly by three of the four governing bodies, with victory placing him on the cusp of a world title fight.
With the heavyweight landscape undergoing a period of change following Anthony Joshua’s shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr, the new crop, of which Joyce despite his age is a part, will fancy their chances of mixing with the elite of the division and could possibly see themselves involved in the biggest fights in the not-too-distant future. Nevertheless, for all this swift progress, future opportunities may be nothing short of fantasy if Joyce is unable to beat Jennings convincingly on July 13.