JOE JOYCE says the big names in the heavyweight division need to “man up” and start fighting one another.

‘The Juggernaut’ returns on September 23 against Zhilei Zhang looking to right a wrong after suffering his first professional loss at the hands of the 40-year-old in April.

Joyce 15-1 (14) invoked his rematch clause to face Zhang 25-1-1 (20) once again in what will be one of the highlights of the year for his weight class. So far in 2023 there have been more words than action from the leading pack of Usyk, Fury, Joshua and Wilder.

“Where’s these fights. The next big fight is my is my fight,” said Joyce during an interview with Ariel Helwani for BT Sport.

“Back in the 80s and 90s the champs were fighting multiple times a year.

“They need to man up and take on these fights.”

Victory for Joyce against Zhang would see him become the mandatory challenger for Oleksandr Usyk’s WBO belt. The Ukrainian defends that and two other straps against Daniel Dubois on August 26 in Poland. Joyce has experience of fighting both men having lost to Usyk as an amateur in 2013. Seven years later in his 12th professional contest he beat Dubois after his opponent failed to beat the count in the 10th round. Does Joyce give the 25-year-old a chance against the champion?

“Dubois hits hard so if he can hit Usyk then he’s got a shot. If he can’t he’s not because Usyk throws too many punches, head movement’s amazing, footwork, experience. If he can land a shot a heavy shot on him Usyk’s in trouble. Dubois hits very hard.”

Joyce believes he let many people down after losing to Zhang three months ago. The sixth-round stoppage due to an eye injury was unexpected such had been the momentum and thrilling performances the 37-year-old carried into the fight. The 2016 Olympic Silver medallist spoke of his feelings following his first professional loss.

“On the night I watched it back and it’s terrible to watch back the performance. I felt the disappointment from all my friends, my family, my fans, my girlfriend. It’s tough because normally I’m on the winning end of things so that’s a totally different feeling. It was a tough night.

“I had to go to hospital and get checked out and everything. It took a long time. It’s character building, right? I’ve tasted defeat in the amateurs, so I know what it feels like, and I don’t particularly want it to happen again.”

Fighting Zhang looked like an unnecessary risk. Joyce could have sat out and waited for a shot at Fury or Usyk but instead chose to stay active and take on a dangerous opponent like Zhang.

“I am actually fighting,” he said taking aim at those in the division who have not been.

“I’m taking risks and I’m fighting these guys. I’m actually fighting people unlike some of the heavyweights.”

“I don’t regret taking the fight,” he added. “It’s part of the journey of my career. It’s like a challenge and an obstacle that has stopped me in my tracks. I’m gonna have to rebuild and I’m gonna come out stronger and hopefully get those opportunities back.”