Can Joe Joyce Revive His Career Or Will He Go The Same Way As David Price?

March 17, 2024
3 months
Joe Joyce

Joe Joyce made his return to the ring on Saturday night and secured a stoppage victory. On the surface, it would seem like a satisfactory comeback but in reality, it was hardly a ringing endorsement of his possible future world title credentials.

For some much-needed context, Joyce (16-2-0 15 KO) returned in the co-main event on the bill headlined by Liam Davies’ stunning IBO super-bantamweight victory over Erik Robles Ayala at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, England. Not quite the bright lights of Las Vegas or Riyadh.

His opponent? A heavyweight journeyman named Kash Ali, whose last two fights were six-rounders including a defeat to little-known Bohdan Myronets at a sports center in Edinburgh. The manner of victory? A last-round knockout that owed as much to Ali’s exhaustion as it did to Joyce’s punch power.

Overall, it was a wholly unconvincing way for ‘The Juggernaut’ to announce his return and there was nothing he produced that would trouble any of the top heavyweights.

After his victory, Joyce pronounced on Instagram: “Bring on any heavyweight next!” Based on this performance, there was little to suggest that he can challenge any fighters near the top of the division.

So, what’s happened? How can a fighter who stopped the likes of Daniel Dubois and Joseph Parker, and once held the WBO interim heavyweight title, suffer such a sharp decline?

Joyce Defeats To Zhang

Confidence is a delicate quality in professional sports and arguably even more so in combat sports. Joyce, an Olympic medallist, had eased his way through the professional ranks, reeling off 15 straight victories to put himself at the front of the line for a world title shot.

The Briton had built an aura of invincibility around himself thanks to his concussive knockout power and his reputation for having a granite chin. That aura was brutally ripped apart by Zhilei Zhang in April 2023 when the Chinese fighter secured a sixth-round stoppage against Joyce.

Keen to make amends, Joyce activated the rematch clause and got knocked out in even more emphatic fashion five months later, Zhang needing only three rounds the second time.

From feeling invincible to being full of doubts, Joyce will need time to rebuild his confidence and make any necessary improvements to his boxing skill set.

The concern for Joyce and his team will be if the defeats to Zhang caused a level of damage to his career that he is unable to recover from – similar to David Price.

What Happened To David Price?

Before Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, the man expected to carry British heavyweight hopes was Price. The 6ft 8in giant from Liverpool steamrolled his way through his first 15 opponents and was expected to do the same when he met veteran Tony Thompson in February 2013.

Instead, Price suffered a shock second-round defeat to the American. Determined to prove it was a minor blip, Price called for a rematch and looked to be on course for revenge when he knocked Thompson down in the second round. Except, Thompson had other ideas and stopped Price again, this time in the fifth round.

Price was never the same again and his career never fully recovered. He later lost to the likes of Erkan Teper, Christian Hammer, and Alexander Povetkin, before hanging up his gloves in 2019 with a fourth-round defeat to Derek Chisora.

Which Way Will Joyce Go?

The big issue for Joyce is his style and the strengths and weaknesses it comprises. He may have plenty of power and be able to absorb a punch, but he is lethargically slow. There is little head movement, little footwork, and little snap in his punches.

Respected trainer David Coldwell, who trained Tony Bellew to his cruiserweight world title, was ringside for Joyce’s fight with Ali and was left thoroughly unimpressed.

“There was an opportunity there [for Ali] to beat Joe Joyce, because Joyce was so slow,” Coldwell said to Pro Boxing Fans. “It’s hard to understand just how slow he was. It was not good to watch, he’s a sitting duck for any top heavyweight.”

Joyce can take some inspiration from former opponent Parker, who has admirably rebuilt his career since his defeat to the Juggernaut in September 2022. Since then, the New Zealander has claimed five straight wins, including against Deontay Wilder and most recently against Zhang to become the WBO interim champion.

Should they have a rematch, though, Coldwell can only see one outcome. “Parker knocks him out,” he said. “He at least wins if he doesn’t knock him out. He’s a sitting target and is there to be nailed.”

There is clearly much work ahead for Joyce to get back on track and where he can legitimately be in contention for the biggest bouts against the best fighters.