Joe Joyce’s world title hopes in tatters after shock loss to Zhilei Zhang as Brit can’t see eye swollen with shock
JOE JOYCE’s World Cup dreams were dashed with his bruised right eye.
The Londoner only had to get through Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang, 39, to secure a summer showdown with Dillian Whyte – before finally securing a shot at glory in the winter.
But he made a typically terrible start to the fight, lying on his backfoot most of the six one-sided rounds and had to be pulled out by the referee on doctor’s advice.
The fact that he was still standing after the second round was incredible, but Joyce’s famously solid chin just meant his eyes had to absorb all the punishment.
Since Joyce’s mother was registered blind, the idea that he would suffer serious long-term damage was too much to bear for anyone watching with knowledge of the family.
There was relief when the Rio 2016 Olympic silver medalist was pulled from the fight – without going on his shield.
The fallen warrior, 37, said: “I’m disappointed with my performance. I couldn’t dodge his shots.”
A notoriously slow starter, Joyce gave his Copper Box fans a typical fright with a shot of opener.
Big Bang Zhang landed a huge right hook and a left that would have knocked down a tree.
But the incredibly solid Putney ace swallowed the punches and landed a meaty straight to calm fans’ nerves.
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The second was also a disaster. Zhang landed a violent combination that almost sent Joyce falling out of the ring.
The right eye closed as soon as the third started, making it even harder to spot Zhang’s huge left-handers coming over the top.
Every point the 2008 silver medalist had left seemed to buzz the Briton, whose nose was watering and whose right eye closed to a slit.
A stone lighter than in his last fight, Joyce was bullied by the 19th visitor.
It took four rounds before he even had any success, and even then, Zhang regained control of the round.
By the fifth, Joyce’s right eye was gone, blinding him and costing him his accuracy and balance, as well as his eyesight.
The ringside doctor checked but allowed the sixth start – only for referee Howard Foster to advise him to wave it off.
Joyce added, “My apologies to all the fans that came out.
“I gave everything, but I can do better. I expected to win.
“My journey is not over yet. That’s just one hurdle I may have stumbled over. I’ll be back.”