35-year-old Joyce faces German Michael Wallisch on Saturday before his crunch fight against fellow Briton Daniel Dubois later in the year
‘Juggernaut’ Joe Joyce returns on Saturday night, after a year out of the ring, in a potential banana-skin 10-round contest against German Michael Wallisch ahead of his much-anticipated heavyweight dust-up with Daniel Dubois.
The Dubois fight was re-scheduled from mid-April to October 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Joyce – a silver medallist from Rio 2016, and a fine-art graduate – is the first high-profile boxer to take to the ring after the lockdown and headlines Frank Warren’s event from East London, behind closed doors.
His aim is to sharpen his wits against Wallisch before the fight with Dubois, with the winner becoming a genuine top-10 heavyweight contender.
Victory would spell major nights ahead against renowned names currently sitting on the sidelines awaiting their returns later this year. Indeed, fights with the likes of Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Dillian Whyte are conceivably a couple of wins away for the Joyce-Dubois victor.
Joyce does not have time on his side, though – which he readily admitted in an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph – as he turns 35 in September. The next two years are arguably the prime of his career.
In three years as a professional, Joyce has moved to 10-0, with nine knockouts. Granite chin, Joyce slugs away at his rivals. Last time out, his opponent on Saturday, Wallisch, was knocked out in the third round by Tony Yoka, who controversially defeated Joyce on points in the Olympic superheavyweight final at Rio 2016.
Away from the ring, and far from struggling during lockdown, Joyce has found it simplicity itself. “A lot of my mates have got bikes and we’ve gone to Box Hill and Windsor castle. It’s gets all of us together. Every time I see my mum I bring my bike and we go cycling,” the Surrey-based fighter told The Telegraph.
“Lockdown has been alright, actually. I’ve enjoyed a lot of it. Obviously it was a shame the fight [with Dubois] got postponed and I had to make a quick getaway back to the UK, and leave sunny Vegas where I was training. But I got a chance to chill out. I’m in Surrey. I’ve got fields everywhere. Lucky I wasn’t stuck in London. I feel for people who were stuck in blocks of flats, and then the parks closed. It must have been so frustrating for them.
“But I didn’t learn that much that I didn’t already know about myself, I am quite happy in my own company. I thought about doing some painting, but sadly I didn’t,” added the expert in Fine Arts, who revealed that 11 years ago he “left for China to train with the Shaolin Kung Fu masters a day before the graduation ceremony.”
Right now, though, the boxing ring is the only canvas he is concentrating on. “I always knew signing with Frank Warren meant Dubois was a potential fight. It turned out the belts on the line were the Commonwealth, European and WBO silver titles, so I was like ‘all right then!’ I’m happy to have a piece of that. The clock is ticking, I’m going to be 35 soon. I’m not 22 like Dubois. I need to get in the best situation to win otherwise it’ll set me back. If I lose, I’ll have to build back up again. But by beating Dubois I can challenge anyone and it puts me right in the mix for a world title. Dubois’ definitely going to try and knock my block off. I don’t know if I should say I can’t wait because I’ll have to take some big lumps off him.”
Both the fighter and his promoter will hope that spectators can return in October. “I think for the Dubois fight there needs to be a crowd. It wouldn’t have the same magic. You need their reaction for every move you make and you want that energy when you win. That’s what is so exciting about boxing. He’s never dealt with anyone like me in the ring before. Not many boxers have. I think people will realise my worth in the sport when I beat him. I’m looking forward to that.”
But for now the focus is on Wallisch – who has a record of 20 wins three defeats – before the next heavyweight chess move. Joyce will want to make a statement. “Wallisch is a good boxer and I’ve had a good look at him. He’s got a high guard and is a good European prospect. He has fought Yoka and another Olympic medalist. He’s no mug. It’s going to be weird because it’ll be in an empty studio. It’ll be like an intense sparring session, but I have to win and look good. So yeah, it’s going to be interesting. But I need to deal with him before concentrating on Dubois.”