London's Copper Box Arena Zhilei Zhang, a Chinese southpaw, stunned hometown favourite Joe Joyce, an undefeated fighter (15-1, 14 KOs), in the sixth round by shocking TKO to score the most significant victory of his career.
In the opening two rounds, Zhang stunned Joyce with devastating left hands. Joyce attempted to increase his offensive output in the subsequent round, but his inability to see Zhang's left hand slowed him down.
As Joyce's right eye started to swell in rounds four and five, Zhang started to successfully hit his shots from close range and used his high guard defence to avoid retaliation. Joyce was stepping up his game and throwing his customary assortment of hard punches, but Zhang was connecting with the bigger blows.
After two inspections from the ringside doctor, referee Howard Foster was forced to end the fight at 1:23 of round six.
Zhang said, “Today belongs to me. It belongs to everyone who showed up. It belongs to every Chinese person who showed up today.
“I’m 39 years old. But I’m disciplined. I train hard. The next step is for me to fight for a world title."
After falling to Filip Hrgovic in a contentious twelve-round decision in their IBF semifinal eliminator, Zhang recovered with a win over Joyce.
Zhang now holds the WBO interim heavyweight title after defeating Joyce, putting him in line for an automatic shot at Oleksandr Usyk, the WBO, IBF, IBO, and WBA world champion.
Since Usyk's next required duty is to the WBA and "regular" champion Daniel Dubois is in talks to challenge him before the year is out, Zhang will need to remain active in the interim. And should Usyk triumph, Hrgovic—the IBF's required challenger—would come next.