Joe Joyce can create art on two kinds of canvas
Joe Joyce can create art on two kinds of canvas

Joe Joyce interview: Fighting Oleksandr Usyk, Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua, his rapid rise in the pro ranks and Olympic art

In a sport where showmanship and bravado outside of the ring so often helps create money-spinning fights inside of it, those who let their boxing do the talking can find it hard to reach the pinnacle.

But when Joe Joyce gave Daniel Dubois a dose of "instant karma" for what he said about his blind mother’s eyesight in the build-up to their thrilling battle of Britain last November, he potentially moved to within one fight of a career-changing world heavyweight title shot against either Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua.

Even then it was left to his mum Marvel to land the post-fight verbal blows as stunned favourite Dubois poetically headed to hospital with an eye injury while the unbeaten Joyce instead quietly started to look ahead to his next stop on a steep upward curve since turning pro in 2017 aged 31.


Indeed, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist is several steps closer to ultimate glory than Joshua was after his first 12 fights in the paid ranks, even if he lacks the same kind of hype and attention that surrounded the London 2012 star at the beginning of his career.

Not that it bothers the unruffled British, Commonwealth and European champion, who likens elements of the professional ranks to American wrestling in comparison to where he learned his ring craft in the amateur ranks.

He said: "Professional boxing is an entertainment business, so the people want to see more of the stories behind the fighters as well as the drama of the press conferences. It’s like a soap opera or WWE sometimes! The amateur scene is more from the angle of sport with a lot of mutual respect, while you’re also representing your country, so you need to put out a clean cut image.

"I’ve found it easier than I thought. You do get media trained during the Team GB days and slowly introduced to what might lie ahead, but once you do turn pro it is all about trying to get people intrigued about you as a person and a boxer. You do need to sell tickets because ultimately it is a business.

"I guess I did have great preparation for the professional ranks having travelled all around the world as an amateur and competing in many different tournaments, while the introduction of the WSB – which is an apprenticeship for pro boxing – really helped.

"It meant when I did turn pro I could start with a tough 10-rounder against Ian Lewison and from there my career has strategically moved forward in steep curves. After just four fights I won the Commonwealth title and now by the 12th I’ve added five to the collection with the British, WBC Silver, WBO International and the European belts.

"I’ve definitely been economical with my progression and that’s got me to where I am pretty quickly."

It’s a testament to his boxing talents, work-rate and iron chin that the affable Londoner has come so far so quickly, without needing to run his mouth to enhance his profile, and there’s no doubt his next fight looks set to be his biggest yet.

Preliminary talks have already taken place for Joyce to face Oleksandr Usyk for the interim WBO heavyweight title, with the winner putting themselves at the front of the queue to take on Fury or Joshua following the culmination of their mega two-fight duel.

The Juggernaut will be again underdog should he fight the unbeaten Ukrainian sensation but his current odds of 15/8 are not quite as big as the 3/1 he was priced to defeat Dubois, who he stopped in the 10th round at Church House to extend his record to 12 wins and 11 stoppages.

The odds and expectations of others don't matter to Joyce, although he does accept his preparation will be a lot different to his last bout as he looks to exact revenge on a man who comfortably beat him in the amateur ranks of the World Series of Boxing at York Hall eight years ago.

He said: "I'm ready for the next challenge and I’m used to being the underdog, it doesn’t faze me or bother me at all. I don’t feel pressure or nerves going into fights but my preparation for Usyk will be a complete contrast to what it was against Dubois.

"Whereas Dubois hits hard, is orthodox and you have to be wary about his power and how to avoid taking his shots cleanly, Usyk is a southpaw, a lot more nimble on his feet, has fast footwork, is much quicker and also has an amazing boxing brain. It’ll be a different kind of battle but one I’ll be ready for."

Since their last meeting, 2012 Olympic gold medalist Usyk (18-0, 13 KOs) blitzed the cruiserweight division before ending his reign on a high with an eighth-round stoppage of Tony Bellew in November 2018. Just under two years later he’d used his boxing brilliance to outpoint Dereck Chisora in his second heavyweight encounter to take another big step towards his own dream.

Joyce added: "He’s been in boxing a long time and had over 350 amateur bouts before he turned pro after winning Olympic gold when AJ did in 2012. He came into the pros and demolished the cruiserweight division, got all the titles and completed it!

"He’s stepping in with the big guys and won both his fights so far, including his last against the gatekeeper in Dereck Chisora, which was a good fight. It was pretty close but in the end he was too nimble and managed to do what he needed to for the win. Chisora put in his maximum effort but just found him too quick."

The 35-year-old obviously has more reason to be excited about Joshua v Fury than anyone else and it’s a blockbuster he’s finding tough to call having stood opposite both champions down the years.

He said: "I have experience of sharing the ring with both of them, especially Anthony Joshua for a long time on the Team GB team. I helped him prepare for the London 2012 and then when he did turn pro he was trained by Rob McCracken so that meant I would still spar with him ahead of his big fights.

“I also had the chance to spar with Tyson Fury and get to know him in his Big Bear training camp ahead of his first fight with Deontay Wilder so I don’t really want to pick a side.

"Sparring is great practice and you get a gauge for how they are inside the ring, but at the same time you are helping each other to become better and prepare for a certain challenge. At the back of your mind you always know you might meet them in a fight for real one day so you don’t want to get too close personally.

"It’s a 50-50 fight but if I’m pushed I might have to side with Fury based on their last two fights. They are both phenomenal boxers and they have their different skillsets and attributes which make this such a fascinating fight. It’s the biggest one for a long time, with so much at stake, and will decide once and for all who is number one."

Looking at other potential opponents, Joyce wouldn’t rule out a future meeting with Tony Yoka, who controversially beat him via a split decision in the Olympics.

He said: "I want to win some world titles first before I have to think about Tony and he needs to step his game up so he’s in a position where he can challenge me. He had two years out for his drugs ban and now needs to put in the work to get to where I am – he can’t jump from where he is the rankings right now to where I am.

"Not winning the gold is still my biggest regret so it’s worth him trying to call me out at some point!"

Joyce's Olympic journey and representing his country on the biggest sporting stage of them all will always remain one of his proudest moments, which is one of the reasons why he’s been so keen to get involved with building the excitement ahead of this year’s Tokyo Games.

The talented painter, who has a Fine Art degree from Middlesex University, has been commissioned by Purplebricks to create a piece of work in a campaign called ‘Home Support’ to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to the Olympics.

It’s also a chance to showcase his other ways of creating art on a canvas, that he may pursue after his boxing career is done.

He said: "It’s a great honour for me to give back and inspire athletes going for 2021. It was great to get the paints out again. My idea started with the GB lion and then I wanted it to inspire and help get the fires burning in athletes when they see it. Especially because they may not be competing in front of any crowd this year. Purplebricks will be putting it on all their 'for sale' signs around the country so that will be cool to see the work out on our streets.

"Boxing is an art form and they both take a lot of practice and dedication as well as using a wide range of skills to problem solve a particular piece of work or opponent. You’ve got to analyse the subject matter and work out ways to tackle it. The main difference is with art you don’t want to overwork it in case you go past the point of no return.

"I’ve continued to dabble in art since my degree and it would be nice if people do want me to do work for them in the future. I do enjoy it when I have the time and space to get the paints out and it’s definitely something I can fall back on when my career in boxing ends. It’s obviously not as physical and I can go on until I can still hold a brush!"

  • Joe Joyce has teamed up with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo by generating the same amazing home support as London 2012. Visit @PurplebricksUK on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube for details.
Joe Joyce working on his artwork for the Purplebricks 'Home Support' campaign
Joe Joyce working on his artwork for the Purplebricks 'Home Support' campaign

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