- Zhilei Zhang claimed a sensational knock out victory against Joe Joyce
- He stopped the Brit in the third round of the bout with a huge right hand
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Joe Joyce insisted ‘that’s not it for me and I’ll be back’ after he reassembled brains scrambled by his fiendish Chinese conqueror. So somebody has to spell it out for him.
The time has come for this gentleman giant to swap the Noble Art of boxing for the Fine Arts at which he gained a university degree.
To walk away from the canvas upon which he was dumped so brutally on Saturday night and focus on the one he paints so beautifully.
Not only because a second successive knock out by Zhilei Zhang has sent his dream of winning the world heavyweight title spinning into oblivion.
The Juggernaut needs to be saved from himself after being wrecked by his headlong collision with Zhang who now stands way above him in the ring rankings.
Zhilei Zhang (pictured) claimed victory against Joe Joyce on Saturday night
The Chinese fighter delivered a devastating right hook to knock out Joyce in the third round
It was the first time that Joyce (right) has been sent to the canvas in his professional career
The granite chin on which Joyce relied to carry him through his tougher fights has finally crumbled like the concrete in so many of our schools.
For his own good, at 38, he cannot afford to keep taking sledgehammer punches ad nauseum. He has been admitting as much himself of late and discussions with his nearest and dearest need to drive that home as forcefully as Zhang felled him in Wembley Arena.
This is not an easy conclusion for a man who has fallen tantalisingly short of his ambitions. It will hurt the more because his delay in turning professional to pursue Olympic gold transpired to be his biggest mistake only because he was robbed in the final of the Rio Games.
But there were signs that the fire is fading as Zhang sent him reeling backwards with three left hooks like those which shattered his face in their first fight, then pole-axed him with a thunderous right in the third round. Joyce’s dramatic 25lbs weight gain might have been not only an unwise tactic but have as much to do with an ageing body change and diminishing belief.
Zhang, the WBO interim world champion now confirmed as mandatory challenger for that belt, has smashed open the door to the big time. He called out Tyson Fury, asking the crowd: ‘Do you want me to shut him up?’ He may have to wait for the Gypsy King and Oleksandr Usyk to sort out who holds all the titles but even at 40 he looks more sprightly by every fight. Meanwhile a shootout between Zhang and mega-puncher Deontay Wilder would fill any arena in the world.
By contrast Conor Benn’s controversial comeback in Florida was an intermittent affair. Looking less bulky and diminished of power after his months legally disputing two failed drugs tests, he was taken the distance by Mexican journeyman Rodolfo Orozco. Chris Eubank Jr will be all the keener for their generational battle. Even if it has to take place outside British jurisdiction, perhaps in the Middle East.