Zhilei Zhang v Joe Joyce II: Predictions from pros and pundits for heavyweight rematch

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Briton Joe Joyce will look to avenge his defeat to Zhilei Zhang when the two men contest their heavyweight rematch in London on Saturday.

Joyce, 38, was stopped in the sixth round in April, losing his WBO interim title and mandatory challenger status for unified world champion Oleksandr Usyk.

The ‘Juggernaut’ activated his rematch clause and will take on China’s 40-year-old ‘Big Bang’ Zhang at Wembley’s OVO Arena.

Joyce had no answer to southpaw Zhang’s power shots in the first fight, but will he be able to make the right adjustments this time round? Or will a second consecutive loss dampen any hopes of a world-title shot for the Londoner?

The BBC Sport website will have a live text commentary page from about 21:00 BST, featuring build-up and undercard action.

Here are predictions from some big names in the world of boxing.

Zhang’s trainer, Shaun George: “It’s a knockout. It’s the only chance we have. I don’t trust the politics in this sport. I don’t understand the referees and judges here. There’s only one mission – this fight will not be going the distance.”

Undefeated lightweight Caroline Dubois: “I think Joyce starts sharper and switched on for the first few rounds, avoiding Zhang’s shots. After focusing on defence he’ll then step it up and then look to get Zhang out late – maybe in rounds 10-12. It will be a good fight but I think Joyce will get his revenge.”

Light-heavyweight prospect Ben Whittaker: “It’s a tough one especially after the first fight. But I believe in Joyce, especially with his engine and his chin. He looks good in training. I am going for a unanimous points decision for Joyce.”

WBO welterweight champion Sandy Ryan: “It would be nice to see Joyce come back with a win but Zhang is very good. It might be the same outcome.”

Former world lightweight champion Anthony Crolla: “One of Joyce’s assets is the pace he sets. He has one of the best engines in the division, without a shadow of a doubt. He’s got to make Zhang work hard early on, be more switched on defensively and drag Zhang into the second half of the fight and catch up there.

“I do think he wins. I think we will see a late stoppage from Joyce to regain his mandatory position.”

Boxing trainer Dave Coldwell: “Everything is riding on this fight for Joyce. Can he do it? Yeah I do think he can but it depends on the quality of southpaw sparring he’s had. Has he learned, in these two camps now, how to deal with a southpaw? Because if he hasn’t, he’s in a world of trouble.”

Former light-middleweight world champion Hannah Rankin: “This is definitely a tough fight for Joyce but I expect him to have learned from the first fight and as long as he’s more active and doesn’t let Zhang get into a rhythm, then I think we could see him take back his title.”

WBO cruiserweight world champion Chris Billam-Smith: “I think Joyce stops him in the second half of the fight. Zhang was tiring in the last fight and I think Joe is smart enough to make adjustments early on to not get hit as much. So I think providing he doesn’t take too much damage early on, Joyce can get to Zhang and stop him later on in the fight.”

British heavyweight Anthony Yarde, who fights on the undercard: “I really want Joyce to get revenge and be back in the mix for a world title, but he has his work cut out. He was getting hit with some clean back hands in the first fight. I was ringside and could hear the shots being landed.

“I don’t see him beating Zhang unless he can somehow execute a perfect gameplan.”

TV show Apprentice winner, former amateur boxer and coach Marnie Swindells: “Joyce will win by stoppage in between rounds six and eight. This will be a real career-defining moment for him.

“He has had a lot of time to reflect on the opponent. I think he was very disappointed with how the first fight went, but that’s heavyweight boxing. Joyce will come back harder than ever.”

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