Joyce ready for Usyk test
Joe Joyce's exciting emergence from the Great Britain development squad to the brink of his share in a one million euro cash jackpot will be put to the sternest possible test at York Hall in Bethnal Green on Friday.
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The London heavyweight will have to overcome reigning Olympic champion Oleksandr Usyk if he is to maintain his unbeaten record as the GB Lionhearts face Ukraine Otamans in the World Series of Boxing.
Joyce has blazed a trail in his debut season in the competition, winning four straight fights to place first in the heavyweight rankings and help edge his team closer to the lucrative first prize, worth £860,000.
In addition, Joyce has impressed enough to court the interest of the sport's governing body AIBA, who are set to offer the 27-year-old a contract to compete in their new APB boxing series which starts in September.
It caps a remarkable rise for Joyce, who was not even a member of the Great Britain elite programme when he watched Anthony Joshua scoop Olympic super-heavyweight gold in London eight months ago.
But Joyce, a quietly-spoken former fine art student, is entirely unfazed by the fact that his changing fortunes will see him sharing the ring with the powerful and experienced Usyk, who clattered his way to heavyweight gold at the Olympic Games.
Joyce said: "I go in every fight to win and it doesn't make any difference to me if he's got a gold medal. I've got a size and reach advantage so I've got to be confident."
Joyce's clash with Usyk will round off a high-profile encounter which also sees the return to London of another Olympic champion, the widely-regarded best amateur boxer in the world, Vasyl Lomachenko.
Lomachenko will take on Liverpool's Sam Maxwell at lightweight, while Olympic silver medallist Fred Evans and two reigning European champions, Welshman Andrew Selby and Ireland's Joe Ward, complete the sell-out.
The GB Lionhearts go into the fixture knowing their place in the quarter-finals is already secure. Irrespective of the Ukraine result, they will face the Mexico City Guerreros over two legs next month.
For Joyce, his team's continued participation in the competition provides further opportunity to continue his development, after admitting to being initially slightly reticent about entering.
"It was like a step in the dark," added Joyce. "I'd never boxed without a headguard or a vest before, and also with the extra two rounds involved I didn't really know what to expect.
"But I got used to it after the first bout, and being on the GB podium squad has really helped speed up my improvement.
"It's great to be a part of WSB as it gives boxers the kind of things they want when they turn professional - the big crowds and the entrance music and the incentive to win and earn more money."