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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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Usyk considering stepping down to cruiserweight after Fury rematch

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Undisputed heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk said he may return to the cruiserweight division following his rematch with British heavyweight Tyson Fury later this year.

Usyk – now the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO champion – defeated Fury by split decision in a thrilling contest at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh to become undisputed heavyweight champion.

The Ukrainian was previously the undisputed cruiserweight champion before moving up to heavyweight in 2019.

“I think maybe after the rematch, I am going to go down in weight to cruiserweight. I want more cruiserweight,” Usyk said in an episode of the ‘3 Knockdown Rule’ podcast released on Wednesday.

“Maybe I can be undisputed for a second time in the cruiserweight division, it’s my plan. When I start to prepare for my training camp (as a heavyweight), I have to eat all the time. For me it’s hard, I don’t like it.”

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Usyk, 37, is the first undisputed heavyweight champion since the end of Lennox Lewis’ reign in April 2000. He will face Fury in a rematch on Dec. 21 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. REUTERS

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Usyk-Fury heavyweight rematch set for Dec. 21 in Saudi Arabia

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The heavyweight rematch between undisputed world champion Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury will take place on Dec. 21 in Saudi Arabia, according to the advisor who organizes boxing events in the kingdom.

Turki Alalshikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, confirmed the date of the fight on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday. He said it will take place in Riyadh, the location of the first fight on May 19.

“The world will watch another historical fight again,” he wrote. “Our commitment to boxing fans continues … We hope you enjoy it.”

Usyk became the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 2000 when he defeated Fury by split decision, earning a narrow win on two scorecards. The 37-year-old Ukrainian is the first heavyweight to hold every major title belt since Lennox Lewis.

It was Fury’s first loss as a professional.

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-AP

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Boxing

Furious Fury to clash again with Usyk in October

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All hope is not lost for Tyson Fury who lost his WBC heavyweight championship belt to Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia early this Sunday morning.

Both boxer had agreed before the unification bout that the loser of their fight would be eligible to trigger a rematch.

Owing to the two-way rematch clause, there will be a second showdown. As for a date, nothing is set in stone. The hopeful Saudi boxing chief Turki Alalshikh confirmed that a rematch is likely to go ahead on 12th/13th October 2024, not taking into account exceptional circumstances such as injuries or unforeseen events.

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