He's a decorated amateur and an Olympic silver medalist, but as a pro, what kind of a threat does Joe Joyce pose to the heavyweight Champions?

On November 27, Joe Joyce puts his 11-0 unbeaten record on the line against 15-0 knockout artist, Daniel Dubois, in a fight that will see the winner announce himself to those at the very top of the division.

Joyce is the underdog with bookies and fans despite having achieved more in the sport, having fought better competition, and having a KO percentage to match Dubois'. The general school of thought, at least on social media, is that there is a ceiling to what Joyce can achieve in the sport and that he'll find that ceiling in Dubois.

Many believe that Dubois will be too accurate, and too powerful for Joyce to walk through as he has every other opponent so far in the pro ranks. That might be true - Joyce's defence isn't the best. He takes a lot of shots to get his own off, and against a man like Dubois, that could be a disastrous tactic. On the other hand, Joyce has an excellent chin, and if he can stand up to Dubois' power, the question then becomes 'how does Dubois deal with Joe's relentless work rate and constant clubbing punches?'

Joyce may not have the one-punch knockout power of Dubois, but he is heavy-handed and has an incredible engine - if he can get near Dubois, he is absolutely capable of breaking him down.

Depending on who emerges victorious, we'll likely see different narratives develop around the winner and his future. Already touted as a future champion, a win for Dubois would see him praised further as the next big thing, and rightly so. For Joyce though, would a win over Dubois be just another achievement that gets lost in criticism? His detractors say he is too slow and one-dimensional, and that he defends with his chin. They say he poses no threat to the likes of AJ or Fury. Indeed, Joyce doesn't have the fastest hands, and will never move like a Fury, yet a look at his record suggests he is more than capable of mixing at that level.

In Joyce's first pro fight, he took less time to stop Ian Lewison than did Dillian Whyte in his 20th fight! Just let that sink in. Dillian Whyte - the man who just a few months ago was one of the division's top contenders, took ten rounds to deal with Ian Lewison in fight number 20, while Joyce, in fight number one, did the job in eight.

In fight number eight, Joyce knocked out Bermayne Stiverne, a man who before being KO'd by Joyce, was last seen challenging for a World title (albeit a challenge that lasted less than 3 minutes). In fight ten, Joyce won a unanimous decision against Bryant Jennings - an experienced former world title challenger who has been in with the very best. Ordinarily, a win over Jennings might not seem so impressive, but if you take a look at the level of opponent Joshua or Fury fought in fight number ten, you might find a little more respect for Joe Joyce.

Joyce's success thus far in the pro ranks shouldn't come as a shock - In the World Series of Boxing, he fought Oleksandr Usyk, a man that would go on to become undisputed at cruiserweight, and is now considered one of the top competitors at heavyweight. Usyk won that fight convincingly, but it went the full 5 round distance, and Joyce asked questions of the Ukrainian - not a bad effort for a man whose ability to cope with quick fighters is often brought into question.

The World Series of Boxing also saw Joyce go up against Filip Hrgović - a man who, like Daniel Dubois, is being hailed as a future star of the heavyweight division. Joyce beat Hrgović, and he also landed himself a higher spot on the podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Yet Hrgović is the man that the champions should be keeping an eye on?

Joe Joyce vs Filip Hrgović
by Boxing AIBA via Flickr - CC BY-ND 2.0
Joyce faces Filip Hrgović at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015

While we're on the subject of the Olympics, we would be remiss not to mention Joyce's final with yet another 'future star', Tony Yoka. Yoka got the nod in that one, taking the gold medal and leaving Joyce with Silver, but many watching, including myself, thought Joyce should have been coming home with the Gold. Had those been three pro-rounds, where more attention is paid to body punches when scoring, Joyce would almost certainly have emerged the winner.

Considering everything we've just looked at, why isn't the entire heavyweight division on alert? Why aren't alarm bells ringing every time Joyce steamrolls another decent fighter? Perhaps it's his age. Perhaps people believe that at 35 years old Joyce doesn't have the time left in the sport to get the fights that would see him reach the top. If that's the case, we have to remind you that heavyweights tend to peak far later than those in the lighter divisions. If he wants it, he could have a good few years left.
More likely though, it's his style that people struggle to get on board with - Joyce does take more punches than you'd like to see, particularly at heavyweight, but up to now, what he's been doing has worked, so who are we to say he needs to change?

The great thing about the Dubois fight is that it will tell us exactly how good the winner really is. If Dubois wins, he beats the man who achieved everything we just discussed in this article. If Joyce wins, he proves yet again that he belongs in there with the young, athletic, knockout-artists like Dubois, Hrgović and Yoka, and perhaps then those alarm bells might start ringing for the boys at the top.

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Joseph Bowden
21 May, 2021


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