By Press Release | April 15, 2023

Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) earned the most important victory of his career with a stunning sixth-round TKO over undefeated hometown hero Joe Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs).

Zhang stunned Joyce with sharp left hands in the first two rounds. In the following round, Joyce tried to step up his offense, but his inability to see Zhang’s left hand stunted his momentum.

By rounds four and five, Zhang began comfortably landing his shots from close range, using his high guard defense to avoid return fire as Joyce’s right eye began to swell.

After two inspections from the ringside doctor, referee Howard Foster was forced to end the fight at 1:23 of round six. 

Zhang said, “Today belongs to me. It belongs to everyone who showed up. It belongs to every Chinese person who showed up today.

“I’m 39 years old. But I’m disciplined. I train hard. The next step is for me to fight for a world title."

Joyce said, “I’m just disappointed with my performance. The [left] hand kept hitting me, and I couldn’t get out of the way. So, respect to Zhilei Zhang. It was a good fight, but I think I could have done better.

“I haven’t fought a southpaw for so long. Credit to him because he’s a good fighter. I gave it my all, and I think I can do better. It’s just disappointing. I expected to win like I normally do.”

Mikaela Mayer (18-1, 5 KOs) is ready to take over the lightweight division. The former unified junior lightweight champion made a successful debut at 135 pounds by defeating Swedish contender Lucy Wildheart (10-2, 4 KOs) via unanimous decision Saturday night at Copper Box Arena in London. 

The 32-year-old was originally scheduled to face Christina Linardatou, but the former two-time junior welterweight champion was forced to withdraw after not meeting British Boxing Board of Control requirements. Wildheart, with only 24 hours’ notice, stepped up to the challenge.

Mayer dictated the pace by mixing sharp jabs to the head and body before unleashing short hooks on the inside. Wildheart, who is over three inches shorter than Mayer, had some success with her overhand right.

By round three, Mayer’s left eye showed signs of swelling. In the fourth and fifth rounds, Mayer stood her ground more and started to exchange on the inside, beginning her combinations with hooks to the body instead of a jab.

According to CompuBox, Mayer set new career highs in terms of body punches, as she landed 18 in the fifth round and 166 throughout the fight. 

Mayer captured the WBC interim lightweight title by scores of 100-90, 98-91 and 98-92, and she expressed her desire to become undisputed at her new weight class.

Mayer said, “She stepped in at the last minute, so that was really gutsy of her. It’s definitely a big fight for her to just jump in at 24 hours’ notice. But she was tough and durable. I see why she had the confidence to do that, so props to her.

“I like to fight on the inside, so once I knew that she couldn’t outbox me, I decided to take it to her a little bit and try to break her down to the body.

“I do believe that Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano are supposed to go for their rematch, so assuming that still happens, I will challenge the winner of that. So, it’s definitely really exciting for me. This is where I belong. I belong in big fights. I belong in world title fights. I’m in my prime. I feel great, and I want the toughest challenges possible, and right now at 135, that’s Katie Taylor."

Heavyweights: 18-year-old phenom Moses Itauma (3-0, 2 KOs) went the distance for the first time in his career by defeating iron-chinned Ukrainian Kostiantyn Dovbyshchenko (9-13-1, 6 KOs) via six-round unanimous decision. Score: 60-54.

Lightweights: Sam Noakes (11-0, 11 KOs) scored a second-round TKO against Karthik Sathish Kumar (10-1, 4 KOs). Noakes dropped Kumar once in the first round and again in the second before referee John Latham called a halt to the fight at 1:17.

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