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Usyk gets challenger as Big Bang Zhang eyes fight after ending Joyce’s unbeaten run

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WBO Interim World Heavyweight Title - Joe Joyce v Zhilei Zhang - Copper Box Arena, London, Britain - April 15, 2023 Joe Joyce as his fight against Zhilei Zhang is stopped due to his eye injury Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

China’s Zhilei ‘Big Bang’ Zhang set his sights on Ukraine’s heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk after dealing Britain’s Joe Joyce a first professional defeat on Saturday.

Referee Howard Foster stopped the fight in the sixth of 12 scheduled rounds at London’s Copper Box Arena after the ringside doctor had twice inspected Joyce’s puffed up right eye, which was almost closed.

“Today belongs to me…I’m 39 years old, but I’m disciplined, I train hard. Next step I’m going for the title,” Zhang said through a translator after punching the air and shouting ‘Chinese Power’.

Two of the three judges had Zhang ahead at that point.

Joyce, 37, was the WBO ‘interim’ champion in the division — a title that effectively made him the WBO’s mandatory challenger for WBO, IBO, IBF and WBA champion Usyk. Britain’s Tyson Fury holds the WBC title.

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Zhang and Joyce are both Olympic silver medallists, the Chinese as a super-heavyweight at home in Beijing in 2008 and the Briton in the same division in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The Chinese had his shorter and lighter opponent in trouble from early on, Joyce providing a static target for Zhang’s booming left hand and providing plenty of work for his corner as cuts opened up.

“I’m just disappointed with my performance,” Joyce told BT Sport after what was his 16th pro fight. “The right hand he kept hitting me with. I couldn’t get out of the way, so respect to Zhilei Zhang, Big Bang.

“I haven’t fought a southpaw for so long…I expected to win like I normally do.

“I’ll be back. My journey’s not over, this is just a hurdle I may have tripped over so I’ll be back.”

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-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Dubois promises to put an end to Anthony Joshua era

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It promises a tough time for Anthony Joshua if the words of Daniel Dubois are anything to go by, as both will clash in September.

“I’m aiming to be the best. AJ (Joshua) has been the King for a long time but on the night I need to be the ‘King slayer’. That’s the goal, the mission I have,” Dubois said at the news conference on Wednesday.

“I’m ready to let my fists do the talking. I’m 100% ready to go and to train like a beast.”

Dubois has a 21-2 record with 20 knockouts while 34-year-old Joshua’s record is 28-3, including 25 knockouts.

Usyk beat two-times heavyweight champion Joshua twice – first in 2021 to seize the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts and again in 2022 when he defended the belts – but the Briton has won his last four fights.

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“I went out to watch his last fight… Dubois has been on my mind for a while and he will be for the next 12 weeks,” Joshua said.

“Whoever was going to be there, I was ready to fight in September. It just happened to be him.”

When questioned about the age difference, Joshua said: “It don’t matter, we’re in peak condition. Age is just a number.”

Usyk had knocked out Dubois in nine rounds last year in a bout overshadowed by a low blow controversy when the Ukrainian went down gasping for breath after he was hit on the band of his shorts.

“Anthony and Daniel, I know the IBF title is important to you. It is my present to you on September 21,” Usyk said on X, opens new tab when he vacated the belt.

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The winner of the bout between Joshua and Dubois could then get a crack at the undisputed champion after Usyk and Fury have their rematch.

The undercard will have five bouts, including two for the IBF super-featherweight title and the WBO interim light-heavyweight title.

“This is probably the most stacked card in British boxing history, certainly in my lifetime, headlined by Daniel Dubois and Anthony Joshua,” Queensberry promoter Frank Warren said.

“Where better to do it at the national stadium, Wembley?”

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Usyk vacates IBF heavyweight title

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Oleksandr Usyk has vacated the International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight belt, the Ukrainian said on Tuesday, five weeks after becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion.

The announcement comes after Usyk’s mandatory IBF title defence against challenger Croatian Filip Hrgovic was left pending and Daniel Dubois became the new interim IBF heavyweight champion by beating Hrgovic earlier this month.

The 37-year-old Usyk requested not to be stripped of his IBF belt to contest the undisputed champion title when he takes on Fury in their December rematch, where only the WBC, WBO and WBA titles will now be on the line.

The heavyweight IBF title, which Usyk held since 2021, will be up for grabs when Anthony Joshua takes on Dubois in September at Wembley Stadium.

“Anthony and Daniel, I know the IBF title is important to you. It is my present to you on 21 September,” Usyk said in a video message on X.

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Last month Usyk became the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 2000 as he claimed the WBC title by beating Tyson Fury by a split decision in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Usyk said he may return to the cruiserweight division following his rematch with Fury.

-Reuters

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Anthony Joshua set to become world champion again

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Nigerian-born British boxer, Anthony Joshua may reclaim one of his lost heavyweight titles in September. Holder of one of the belts, Oleksandr Usyk of Ukrain has vacated the International Boxing Federation (IBF).

Joshua was a former holder of the belt, which he won in February 2016 after defeating previous holder, Charles Martin.

Joshua lost the belt along with two others in his bout with Oleksandr Usyk.  The Ukrainian has now vacated that title and so, the September bout of Daniel Dubois and Anthony Joshua in September at Wembley Stadium will fill the vacant position.

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