It may not be long before the growing glitz of the heavyweight boxing division welcomes its latest British recruit – and he is already gunning for its big name stars.
Joe Joyce, a 6ft 6in Olympic silver medallist with a flair for fine art, is making headway in the professional ranks.
The Juggernaught’s sixth-round stoppage of former WBC champion Bermane Stiverne has moved him into mandatory position to challenge WBA holder Manuel Charr.
Victory there would catapult Joyce into the reckoning of the division’s big three – Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua – fights he thinks he knows how to win.
“Deontay Wilder is so dangerous and powerful with that big right hand but I think I could outbox him and pile in the shots,” he said.
“Tyson Fury I’d keep under pressure, keep him thinking, hit him everywhere and not get outboxed.
“Then with Anthony Joshua he’s got a strong defence so I’d have to be careful and take him into the later rounds.”
Talk of such mega fights – which are now within touching distance – highlights just how far Joyce has come.
Moving from Bethnal Green to Putney at the age of six, sport fast became a natural fit.
“I literally lived in Putney Leisure Centre,” Joyce recalled fondly.
Weeks on end were consumed by swimming for Wandsworth Dolphins or rugby for Rosslyn Park.
Otherwise there was capoeira, karate, kickboxing and kung fu at the Dojo gym on Putney High Street.
Ambitions for a career in athletics meanwhile were curtailed due to injury and a failure to crack the top rung.
“I was like a jack of all trades but a master of none. Until I found boxing,” he added.
Joyce was late to the ring – he didn’t land a punch until he was 22, turning professional ten years later after amateur success in the ABAs, Commonwealth Games, European Games and Rio 2016 Olympics.
He learned to lace his gloves at Earlsfield Amateur Boxing Club, a gym which honed another British heavyweight, the nation’s favourite Frank Bruno.
Knocking out big men isn’t the only passion of the 19-stone heavyweight, though. There’s also fine art.
This flair was inherited from his parents – his mum Marvel of Nigerian ancestry and dad Philip, a Scotland-born Irishman.
“I remember my first oil painting of an eye when I was seven-years-old,” he said.
“I was inspired from Lord of the Rings.
“Everything about painting I learnt from my dad and it all went from there.”
School teachers quickly picked up on Joyce’s penchant for the paint.
Strong results in GCSEs and A Levels saw the proud Londoner take up a foundation at Camberwell College of Arts before studying Fine Art at Middlesex University, where during his final year he went out to America to refine his craft.
Then boxing took over.
“As soon as I started on the Great Britain team it was much harder to keep up my art,” admitted Joyce.
“I had to move painting to the backburner so now it’s something I dabble in and out of.”
Despite his packed training schedule, along with all the physical and emotional rigours that go with it, Joyce still keeps his sketchbook at his side during camp.
A recent weekend away with his dad saw the pair paint a still life of fruit and a candlestick.
Joyce is keen to point out, though, that his art reflects the stronger, more robust elements of his heavyweight persona.
“When I paint I don’t think I’m doing it delicately.
“I think I paint quite bold symbology with strong colours.
“I like to have somewhere proper to set up shop because I always make my own stretchers for my work.
“It’s a massive operation.”
Still, art reflects an outlet for the quieter moments among his new mountainous surroundings in Big Bear, California – a long way from the Wandsworth Dolphins.
There, 2,000 metres high, Joyce trains under the wily tutelage of Abel Sanchez, best known for his work with former middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin.
The number plate of the Mexican trainer’s truck may read ‘Enforcer’ but Joyce credits the strict, “straight-laced” regime of Sanchez to have improved his physical conditioning and technical armoury.
However, Joyce admits the transition across the pond hasn’t been the easiest.
“It’s been tough to adapt being away from home, there’s not much going on in Big Bear other than the lake,” chuckles Joyce, who makes weekend trips to the beaches of Los Angeles when afforded rare time off.
“We train Monday-Saturday, starting with hill runs at 6am every day.
“We then spar every other day with four minute rounds – it’s tough, old school training.”
These sacrifices Joyce knows are part of the course to reach the top, every mountain climb bringing a Wilder, Joshua or Fury fight that one step closer.
But the proud Londoner does have one regret: the Rio 2016 Olympics, where he feels he was robbed by the judges in his super-heavyweight final defeat to France’s Tony Yoka on a split decision.
“Rio was tough,” he said.
“It was intense and of course bittersweet because if I’d known before the Olympics I was to win silver then I would have been over the moon but it was the nature of the result.
“Everyone thought I’d won.
“I’ll be remembered as a silver medallist – not gold.”
After this brief reflection looking back, Joyce is eager to return to the path ahead.
So, what’s the plan once he’s scaled the heavyweight division to become the most feared man on the planet?
“I’ll put my art hat back on,” Joyce beams.
“Maybe set up a gallery and sell my work.”
The idea of selling paintings as a world champion heavyweight boxer would normally seem an odd prospect.
But in Joyce’s case it seems distinctly possible, somehow.
- 47Joe Joyce set his sights on a showdown with veteran heavyweight Derek Chisora after defeating Rudolf Jozic in a devastating first round win at York Hall on Friday night. In just his second professional bout, the 32-year-old dominated the opening exchanges, forcing the Croatian into a corner before delivering a…