Joyce challenges a boxing truism and the heavyweight status quo

When events are shifted from their established pattern or place it can cause discomfort for those of us accustomed to a certain way of doing things. People are nervous about such change, preferring the security and assurance of the familiar. It is this familiarity that makes a local, a local. Sitting in mine, watching boxing on Dave, I was drawn to some negative conclusions about the performance of heavyweight Joe Joyce on his professional debut. “Arm punches”, “Slow hands”, “He squares up.” “There is no power in his jab or his right hand.”

I said all of the above, some more than once. With the benefit of reflection and sobriety I’ve grown to be kinder to the effort of the giant Londoner.


Heavyweights with the Amateur pedigree of Joe Joyce are not supposed to start their professional career in a ten round bout with a 12-3-1 opponent. Particularly not one who last fought creditably to a 10th round stoppage loss for the British Heavyweight title. Ian Lewison is no Floyd Patterson but he did represent a much more dangerous opponent than debutants customarily encounter. And though Ian will never win beauty contests, either on the scales or between the ropes, he also had plenty of notice for the engagement.

You will find evidence of the customary model for debutants in the records of every contemporary heavyweight from Tyson to Fury. Four rounds, no risk.

In action, even with the weighting of Joyce debut status and the boldness of David Haye’s matchmaking, I was disappointed with Joyce’s apparent lack of power, hand speed and his failure to shift his weight behind his shots. With the benefit of hindsight I’ve nuanced that viewpoint. The Olympic Silver medalist demonstrated a decent level of stamina and an ability to pace himself, he grew in confidence as the rounds unfolded too. As Lewison’s offence faded, and the 36-year old accumulated injury and damage, Joyce’s nervousness dissipated and he looked more assured, though the absence of any dynamism in his work couldn’t be escaped. Much as Lewison right eye couldn’t slip Joyce’s left hook.

In the aftermath of Joyce’s eighth round win, David Haye, Joyce’s omnipresent promoter suggested another step up in class, to challenge Sam Sexton, the British Heavyweight champion, could be next. A match up which makes no sense to me given the Norfolk man’s experience, ability and fearlessness.  Haste is created by Joyce’s thirty two birthdays and Haye’s own preference for ambitious matchmaking but alongside the positives I’ve nourished and nurtured over the last twenty four hours, the weaknesses I spotted with a Guinness in my hand remain evident.

Sexton would be better for the 12 rounds he navigated in winning the British title to beat  Gary Cornish last month too, and has better stamina, hand speed, variety of punches and experience than Lewison. He’s also accustomed to being the fighter on the right of the bill and overcoming taller opponents.

I suspect the BBBofC would not sanction a Joyce challenge to Sexton although Joyce’s victory over a credible British heavyweight in a ten round bout is likely sufficient qualification, technically. I don’t think it would be wise for Haye to push him that hard, irrespective of Joyce’s age or Amateur achievements.

Perhaps Scotsman Gary Cornish would be a more realistic consideration, although still ambitious?

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