Joe Joyce keeps his unbeaten record intact and retains the WBA Gold belt, but is taken the distance for the first time, by Bryant Jennings
When one is an Olympic silver medallist and aged 33, even in the heavyweight division, there is little sense in serving a prolonged professional apprenticeship. Such is the logic that has seen Putney “Juggernaut” Joe Joyce meet former WBC champion Bermane Stiverne and one-time world title challenger Bryant Jennings, both within his first 10 paid fights.
Philadelphian Jennings had only lost previously to Wladimir Klitschko, Luis Ortiz and Oscar Rivas – who meets Dillian Whyte at the same venue next week – and was highly competitive against the last-named in his previous contest, before suffering a final-round stoppage. None of this pedigree prevented him becoming Joyce’s 10th victim in as many bouts in the Heavy Duty chief support at the O2, although he is the first to go the distance with the likeable WBA Gold champion (whatever that means). Joyce came through via tallies of 118-109, 117-110 and 115-112, but did not look like a future world champion on this night.
In his second fight under trainer Adam Booth, Joyce showed some improvement in his footwork and lateral movement but took a fair few clean punches and was visibly hurt by a Jennings left hook to the body in the opening round of a scheduled 12. That said, the Londoner enjoyed a big size advantage and his workrate is spectacular for a heavyweight, something that left the faster Jennings preoccupied with defence for long periods of the first half. The fight never really caught fire, despite both putting firth admirable efforts, and it was a hard watch from round six onwards. Joyce laboured into the championship rounds but this was the first time he had been beyond round eight and had not been past six since his October 2017 debut. As for the American, as against Rivas he looked good in spurts but once again failed to press home his advantages in what appeared, at times, a winnable assignment for him.