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Zhilei Zhang vs. Joe Joyce fight results, highlights: Chinese heavyweight stuns with TKO victory

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Zhilei Zhang took Joe Joyce’s undefeated record, interim WBO heavyweight title and status as one of the mandatory challengers for unified champion Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday night in London. Zhang could not miss with his left hand, eventually forcing the ringside doctor and referee to halt the fight in the sixth round due to grotesque swelling of Joyce’s right eye.

Zhang, a +600 underdog coming into the fight, found early success with the straight left from his southpaw stance, landing several sharp shots in the first round. By the second round, those left hands were visibly hurting Joyce, who looked stiff and slow throughout the bout.

Joyce is known for his durability and Zhang has faded late in fights, setting into motion an interesting situation where if Joyce could continue to survive, he may take over the fight in the second half of the fight.

Unfortunately for Joyce, he could not get away from Zhang’s left hand. Every time Joyce would begin to creep back into the fight, he would get cracked with a few lefts or a right hook and be forced to back off, allowing Zhang to reset and go right back to work.

Joyce’s eye began swelling in the third round and continued to balloon up as Zhang peppered him with shots.

Before Joyce’s pace and Zhang’s conditioning could come into play, the referee halted the action to have the ringside physician check Joyce’s eye. After checking on the fighter, the doctor whispered into the referee’s ear and the fight was halted early in the sixth round.

Zhang was coming off his own first loss, dropping a mildly-controversial decision to Filip Hrgovic in a fight that was to determine the IBF mandatory challenger for Usyk. Getting a second chance at mandatory status, Zhang came up with a huge win and now sits third in line — behind Daniel Dubois and Hrgovic — for a shot at Usyk’s three titles.

Another fight with Joyce likely also stands in Zhang’s way of attempting to become the first Chinese heavyweight world champion as Saturday’s bout included a rematch clause that will allow Joyce an opportunity for revenge.

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