Undefeated heavyweight Joe Joyce drawing comparisons to the legendary George Foreman

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/olympics/rio-2016/a/1208215/" data-ylk="slk:Joe Joyce">Joe Joyce</a> celebrates his win against Joe Hanks on Dec. 1, 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Reuters)
Joe Joyce celebrates his win against Joe Hanks on Dec. 1, 2018 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Reuters)

Joe Joyce isn’t the quickest heavyweight in the world. He’s not the lightest on his feet. But if his trainer, Abel Sanchez, and his promoter, Richard Schaefer, are even remotely correct, boxing is about to add another superstar to the mix.

Sanchez compared Joyce, the 2016 Olympic silver medal winner for Great Britain, to iconic heavyweight legend George Foreman. Foreman is simply an Olympic gold medal winner, a two-time heavyweight champion and arguably the biggest puncher in the sport’s history.

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Schaefer went much the same route and called the 7-0 Joyce not only the best heavyweight in the world but “a generational talent.”

Joyce, who is a stablemate of former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and is known as “Triple J,” faces ex-WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London in a fight televised in the U.S. by Showtime.

It’s the biggest test of his career, even if Stiverne has been painfully inactive. Sanchez, though, sees a guy with immense, game-changing power.

“He’s going to be a George Foreman kind of fighter,” Sanchez told Yahoo Sports by telephone Wednesday. “Foreman was not a Sugar Ray Leonard or Lennox Lewis-type of guy. He was very crude but very strong with a great presence. I think that’s the kind of fighter Joe Joyce is going to be.

“He’s going to be just like George Foreman. That jab he has is so strong, and his right hand, wow. Even though they don’t seem to be that fast, they seem to land and when they do, they seem to discombobulate your senses. With his presence and his size, he’s going to be hard to handle and hard to hit. So I think he’s a George Foreman clone. I honestly believe that.”

It’s saying a mouthful since Foreman is one of the five greatest heavyweights who ever lived, and probably one of the three best, but it speaks to what Sanchez thinks of the 6-foot-6 Joyce.

And Schaefer isn’t shy either about raving about his guy.

“I’m going to make a bold statement: Joe Joyce today is the best heavyweight in the world,” Schaefer said at Wednesday’s news conference in London. “By the end of the year, he’ll be heavyweight champion of the world. By next year,  he’ll be ready to take on [WBC champion Deontay] Wilder, [IBF, WBA, WBO champion Anthony] Joshua and [linear champion Tyson] Fury.

“Joyce is a generational talent. This is going to be a very difficult test. We want to see the best Stiverne because Joe Joyce is going to make a statement.”

His team has fast-tracked Joyce because he is already 33 and so he’s moving faster than promoters would normally move a prospect of his ilk.

He showed he was ready for that on Dec. 1 when he knocked out Joe Hanks in the first round in a bout on the Wilder-Fury undercard at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Hanks is never going to be confused with Mike Tyson, but he entered the bout with a 23-2 record and had been in with solid opposition. Joyce caught him with a left hook that ended the fight at 2:25 when Hanks couldn’t beat the count.

“Joe Hanks is an experienced campaigner, and I thought that fight would go a few rounds,” Joyce told Yahoo Sports. “I thought maybe five, six rounds because he has experience and he’s a good boxer. I scrambled his brains I think with the big jab, which set him up for the hook later.”

In a suddenly crowded division with good talent not only at the top but also on the rise, Joyce may well be its biggest puncher.

That kind of pop in his hands will give him a shot no matter who he fights.

Joe Joyce and Bermane Stiverne pose during a news conference at The O2 in London on Feb. 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Joe Joyce and Bermane Stiverne pose during a news conference at The O2 in London on Feb. 20, 2019. (Reuters)

After the Olympics but before he’d made his pro debut, Joyce sparred with Stiverne in Las Vegas. Stiverne and Joyce manager Sam Jones got into it at Wednesday’s news conference over how the sparring went.

Stiverne, who hasn’t fought since he was knocked out by Wilder on Nov. 4, 2017, didn’t want to discuss the sparring much.

“There are a lot of stories about our sparring, but it wasn’t anything too interesting,” Stiverne said. “It was a couple, maybe four rounds, nothing to talk about. I’m not going into this fight based on the sparring we had. I’ve never disrespected this man. I posted a picture and thanked him for the sparring.

“Obviously they are taking this fight based on what happened in the last fight with Wilder and I’m glad. They are underestimating me. We could go back and forth all day but that’s not what matters. What matters is what happens on Saturday at The O2. I’m a stumbling block, not a stepping stone.”

Stiverne, though, presents everything that Joyce needs. If he is indeed a George Foreman on the rise, he needs to get in the ring with fighters who are experienced and who won’t crumble when he sneers at them.

Sanchez says he wants rounds out of Joyce, who in his seven wins has had four first-round knockouts and one in the second round.

“I think some big names are on the way after this fight, but I get that this is a fight against a guy who has been around and knows what he is doing in there,” Joyce said. “I sparred him on Monday and then we sparred again on Wednesday, but on Friday, they didn’t want to spar. I was quite comfortable in there and I was landing my shots. Apparently, they’re saying he was taking it easy on me.

“I don’t think he’s going to be able to live with my pace. It’s going to take some time to get him out of there, but I believe I’ll be able to do that, hopefully around the seventh or eighth round.”

Sanchez said if Joyce wins, he’d like him to have three more fights this year. Joyce said he wants to fight an elite opponent on the Wilder-Fury 2 card, if that bout happens.

But big things, Joyce said, are in the offing.

“I believe in what I can do in there and I’m looking forward to proving that against guys who people know,” Joyce said. “Every day, I’m getting closer and closer to those top three guys and I want to show my progress in this fight by beating a former champion.”

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