Joe Joyce returned to action in his standard “Juggernaut” form, eating some early shots from a hopeful Christian Hammer before pounding his way to a relentless victory inside of four rounds.
Joyce (14-0, 13 KO) was meant to be fighting Joseph Parker, either on this date or in September, but had to settle for the veteran Hammer (27-10, 17 KO) instead, after Parker swerved Joyce and Queensberry to sign with Boxxer and Sky Sports.
It seemed clear quickly that the 36-year-old Joyce wanted to come out and make a statement, as he was aggressive from the get-go. But Hammer, 34, threw what he had at the big man, and landed some hard, clean right hands in the first round, honestly the sort of shots that — with the way they landed — would have knocked out some good heavyweight fighters.
But Joyce’s cinder block skull absorbed the punishment pretty handily, and he just kept chugging forward. Hammer went down late in the third round on a cuffing shot around the back of the head, not on purpose, and it didn’t even really land. He was just exhausted from the pace Joyce forced him to employ.
Joyce put Hammer down early on a body shot in round four, and kept up the pressure, scoring two more knockdowns for the victory. The official time of the stoppage was 1:20 of round four.
“He was tough, he was game, and he hit me with some good shots early on. I had to kind of work him out and start landing my shots,” Joyce said. “He’s a tough guy, because I hit him with some big ones. I enjoyed it so much, it’s been a whole year since I’ve been out, so it’s good to be back again.”
Joyce said the defensive issues he had early weren’t a big concern, but admitted he had to warm up.
“It’s kind of like when you go in the rain, you have an umbrella, but if you don’t you probably get wet a little bit,” he said. “That’s what happens early on until I start getting my defenses up, my footwork going and head movement, especially because I haven’t fought in so long. I have to warm into the fight a bit, so it seems.”
Joyce, of course, wants big fights soon, saying, “I’m top level, ready for the world stage. I’m a proper heavyweight, I’m fit, I’ve got an engine, I’ve got a chin, a big heart, and big cojones, as well. I’m ready for all comers.
“I’m looking to fight possibly the winner of (Usyk vs Joshua 2), or possibly Tyson Fury. I’m at that level. It’s a shame Parker couldn’t make it tonight, but let’s see what happens.”
Promoter Frank Warren said Joyce will return on Sept. 24, but they don’t have an opponent yet, but that they’ve got their eyes looking further than that for big fights, too, with a focus on what happens between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua in August.
Asked if he had a pick for Usyk vs Joshua 2, Joyce replied, “I’ve got to back the British guy, but I mean, I have respect for both fighters. I really enjoyed fighting Usyk back in the day, we’ve both come a long way since then so it’d be good to do it again.”
Zolani Tete KO-4 Jason Cunningham
A great and needed win for Tete, the former IBF titleholder at 115 and WBO titleholder at 118, as he claims the Commonwealth title at 122 here, and also a pair of regional trinkets with the IBF and WBO, which will mean rankings consideration.
The 34-year-old Tete hasn’t been seen, really, since his 2019 TKO-3 loss to John Riel Casimero at bantamweight, fighting just once between then and today, an easy win at home in South Africa last December.
But he looked really sharp here. Tete (30-4, 23 KO) had Cunningham’s respect very early, controlled the range and tempo in the first two rounds, and still was doing so in the third, but in that round, he also saw Cunningham (31-7, 7 KO) getting more willing to open up on offense.
Seeing that, Tete pounced very early in the fourth, and dropped Cunningham, then kept up the pressure when the action resumed. It was a fairly scary KO, as Tete just ripped shots at the 32-year-old Cunningham, who tried to hold but just couldn’t get there, and took a couple more shots, dropped hard a second time, and cracked his head on the canvas when he hit, too. Referee Howard Foster called it without a count, as he should have.
Cunningham was OK after the fight, got oxygen, they took their time, the medical attention was fast and on the ball. But he eventually got up, was there in center ring for Tete to get his hand raised, and Tete showed a lot of respect and appreciation for his opponent, too.
Tete looked fresh here, looked strong and plenty big enough to carry 122, and if he wants to chase a world title, he should get on it soon. The two belts he’d seem to be closest in line for are the WBO, one of two held by Stephen Fulton Jr, and the IBF, one of two held by Murodjon Akhmadaliev.
- Mark Chamberlain UD-10 Marc Vidal: A blowout win for Chamberlain (11-0, 7 KO), who really kinda beat the crap out of Vidal (13-3-5, 5 KO), a former European featherweight champ who sorta, like, got a fortunate European featherweight title. But he’s a tough guy, and he was tough through all 10 rounds of getting pretty well battered by Chamberlain in this one. Scores were 100-90 across the board.
- Tommy Fletcher TKO-1 Aron Vrnoga: This was the pro debut for young Fletcher, a 6’7” kid who is going pro as a cruiserweight but will eventually, in time, grow into a heavyweight, or at least that’s the hope. His trainer says he “hits as hard as Deontay Wilder,” which I will question, but he clearly can crack, and more than that, he doesn’t move awkwardly for a guy with his frame, there’s an athleticism to him, that was clear even in the 58 seconds this fight lasted. Fletcher looks like an interesting prospect; great team behind him (Mark and Jimmy Tibbs), size you can dream on, and an aggression and at least some real power for sure.
- Micky Burke PTS-6 Serge Ambomo (60-55)
- Henry Turner PTS-6 Jakub Laskowski (60-54)