Big Joe faces his greatest challenge yet when he takes on Bermane Stiverne at the O2
Joe Joyce is a heavyweight in a hurry. The 33-year-old has entered the ring as a pro just seven times, with seven stoppages to his name, and he faces his biggest challenge yet when he fights Bermane Stiverne at the O2 on the James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr undercard – live on talkSPORT.
There was an angry exchange during the pre-fight press conference – but Joe was cool, he didn’t get involved and left the nonsense to his manager Sam Jones who went (verbally) toe-to-toe with the Haitian-Canadian.
Big Joe did, however, prove he’s growing into his role as a high-profile fighter. A quiet man by nature, the Olympic silver medallist has in the past been stuck for words but appeared comfortable in the spotlight and was a quick on his feet with a retort to Stiverne’s ‘you’re getting schooled’ with the response ‘I went to university!’
In an age of heavyweight hype and the gobby type – Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Big Baby Miller et al – Joe’s a throwback to a bygone time, but a man warming to attention, according to his vastly experienced trainer Abel Sanchez.
“He’s growing in confidence and growing as a figure,” he said. “He understands that he is going to have to be the voice for us – we are his team – we’re not the ones that ought to be talking, he’s going to have to step up to the ropes. I’m happy to see him talk a bit more. I’m happy that he’s very confident, at ease and at peace, just like he is in the gym. I’m glad he didn’t get involved in all the s*** that went back and forth; it’s good. He said some words from the heart and exactly how he feels.
“I think he’s a throwback to George Foreman. He was a quiet guy who did his talking inside the ring. I think that’s the type of fighter Joe is going to be. He’ll be talkative, but not as talkative as some of the other guys! If he goes in and does his job on Saturday night, he won’t have to be saying much. Big Joe’s presence will be enough,” Sanchez added.
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Catch the entire card on Saturday night, which culminates with James DeGale vs Chris Eubank Jr LIVE on talkSPORT on 23 February
Joyce moved to Big Bear, California, to train with Sanchez and the pair will make the ringwalk on Saturday for the third time together – the first on UK soil. The link up was made with a view to completing Joyce’s boxing education and getting him ready to fight the elite in the division – the likes of Joshua, Wilder and Fury. According to Sanchez, all has worked out well and big Joe’s right on track.
“He has a willingness to try things,” he explained. “There’s nothing that we coaches can do if we don’t have a willing student. He’s adapted very well to my system and adapted well to hard work which is important. Because of that I think he’ll progress a lot quicker than most fighters.
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“This is the kind of fight that puts him a level a little higher. Bermane being an ex-world champion and fighting Deontay Wilder to 12 rounds, I think by beating him on Saturday night, and it depends how we beat him, it puts him closer to being talked about like those guys. Those guys have earned the right and deserve all the accolades they’re getting. We have to earn that still and Bermane is the first step.”
So, can ‘Triple J’ (as he’s known in the gym he shares with the Sanchez-trained GGG) make a statement in North Greenwich this weekend? If so, he’s another rung closer to the top dogs and despite the confusion boxing fans are feeling following Tyson Fury’s ESPN deal, Sanchez believes all will be well and the best will fight the best.
“I think with HBO out of the way now, HBO alienated a lot of networks and promoters by the way they did business,” he said. “I think promoters and networks now understand that they have to work with each other. The best fights to be made are with different networks. If these fights aren’t made, then we all suffer. They recognise that. Just because Tyson’s signed with ESPN doesn’t mean the fight [with Wilder] won’t get made. I think the fight gets made in May.”
Reassuring words from a teacher who knows. And who knows, big Joe may end up top of the class – but he still probably won’t shout about it.
Catch Joe Joyce against Bermane Stiverne live on talkSPORT on the DeGale vs Eubank Jr undercard on Saturday 23 February from 7pm
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