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Zhilei Zhang vs Joe Joyce tips: World title ambitions at stake as heavyweight behemoths meet again

Repeat or revenge? That is the question on everybody’s lips as Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce meet for a second time in a high-stakes heavyweight showdown at London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday night.

Last April, ‘Big Bang’ Zhang shook up the heavyweight division by handing Joyce his first professional defeat.

The Chinese heavyweight stopped the Brit in the sixth round to claim the WBO interim belt and force his name into the world title conversation.

For Joyce, this is arguably the biggest fight of his professional career so far.

The 38-year-old lost his mandatory challenger status to fight Oleksandr Usyk, though victory over Zhang would undoubtedly put him back in the title picture.

Defeat, however, could significantly diminish Joyce’s aspirations of fighting for the world honours in the near future. 

The stakes are also high for Zhang. The 2008 Olympic silver medallist turned 40 last May, meaning his window of opportunity is limited.

The Chinese heavyweight would be at the head of the line for a world title shot should he prevail over Joyce for a second time.

However, his second pro defeat would arguably end his hopes of becoming the first ever Chinese heavyweight world champion.

Tale of the tape

Zhilei Zhang

Age: 40

Stance: Southpaw

Birthplace: Zhoukou, Henan, China

Pro record: 27 fights, 25 wins, 20 wins by KO, 1 loss and 1 draw

Joe Joyce

Age: 38

Stance: Orthodox

Birthplace: London, England

Pro record: 16 fights, 15 wins, 14 wins by KO and 1 loss

Can Joyce learn from defeat?

Last April, Joyce struggled to handle Zhang’s southpaw style from the very first round.

Big Bang enjoyed tremendous success throughout the bout and caused Joyce’s right eye to heavily swell.

The Brit was twice inspected by the ringside doctor before the fight was eventually stopped in the sixth round.

Pundits ahead of the rematch have urged Joyce to move his head and avoid Zhang’s big left hand – clearly easier said than done.

Nevertheless, Joyce is confident he and his team have made the required adjustments.

Speaking at the press conference, he said: "The first fight exposed a lot of mistakes me and my team made in the camp and it's about correcting those. Not overlooking Zhang, I need to get those things right.

"A lot of small changes make a big difference. That's what we've done."

Zhang vs Joyce verdict

Zhang is unlikely to change his approach considering his success from the first fight. Big Bang will come out strong in the early rounds, looking to replicate his victory from April.

The real question concerns Joyce and how the Brit will go about this rematch.

The 38-year-old has one hell of a chin and also boasts an impressive tank. Should the fight go past the half-way mark, Joyce will certainly fancy his chances.

Our tip is to back Joyce to learn from his mistakes and win this fight on points.

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