By Frank Warren
I WAS DELIGHTED last week to be able to officially signpost a proper banger of a heavyweight fight for April 15 when Big Joe Joyce goes up against Big Bang Zhang, otherwise known as Zhilei Zhang.
I’ve got a good feeling about this one and I think we could be in for something special at the Copper Box Arena. This is shaping up to be a strong year so far with big fights coming thick and fast across the board, with us more than doing our bit to deliver what the fans want to see.
It is a bit of a lottery ticket for the Chinese giant, who was edged out in an IBF final eliminator against Filip Hrgovic last year. I have yet to meet someone who actually thinks Hrgovic won the fight, so Zhang is definitely worthy of another bash.
Joe’s WBO Interim world title will be on the line, so it is a golden opportunity for Zhang to gatecrash the heavyweight party and force himself into the reckoning to take on the full champions.
Our big hope, of course, is that the Juggernaut remains on a collision course with Tyson Fury and a big summer date at Wembley. That is the plan if Tyson takes all the titles from Oleksandr Usyk and Joe does the business on April 15 in Stratford.
I am thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response to Joyce-Zhang being announced and, in an ideal world, we would have sought a bigger venue given Joe’s ever-growing popularity.
However, we had our date inked in and bigger, alternative venues were not available. The good news is the Copper Box is probably the most spectator-friendly arena in the country with a superb atmosphere and excellent transport links.
There isn’t a bad view in the house and Joe will need everyone to get behind him because he is in for a proper test against the 2008 Olympic silver medallist, who also medalled at the 2007 and 2009 World Championships and has suffered just the one hotly-disputed defeat as a pro.
This cannot be put down as just a marking time fight and I anticipate bombs will be flying right from the off. Hopefully Joe will not be offering up his chin for testing this time out and he can safely navigate himself towards a huge summer showdown.
OUR MARCH 25 show at the Telford International Centre has also got a couple of crackers topping the card and I strongly suspect it will be a night where the super bantamweights seize the spotlight.
At middleweight, Nathan Heaney and his merry band of fans will be out in force to support the Stoke hero in his rematch against Jack Flatley for the WBA Continental title and a night with the Stoke City Choir is always something to behold.
But shortly before Delilah rings out around Telford, the Scouse Snarler Andrew Cain will be looking to return to his destructive best when he takes on his toughest test in the shape of Ionut Baluta.
Unfortunately, injury ruled Andrew out of a late-2022 date, but he is back firing on all cylinders now and what a ferocious prospect that is. This lad from Liverpool is something else, a super bantamweight force of nature who appears destined for the very top. His last two fights against supposedly solid opposition both went in the first round with his opponents grounded by some hellacious punching.
This time he is up against a proper hard case in Baluta, who has operated at a high level and loves a tear-up. He was outfoxed by Liam Davies last time out with the European title at stake but Andrew, who can box when he wants to, will likely make it a firefight and one very much not to be missed.