JOE JOYCE admits to being surprised by the performance of Zhilei Zhang during his first professional defeat.

The two heavyweights fought one another on April 15 at the Copper Box Arena in London but the result made a lot of pre-fight predictions look silly.

With each win the reputation of Joyce grew and grew. After 15 fights and 15 wins the 37-year-old looked like a formidable prospect for the top heavyweights. ‘The Juggernaut’ had been regarded as someone who could beat Anthony Joshua, who could cause Tyson Fury problems while others salivated at the prospect of his chin going up against the power of Deontay Wilder.

The hyperbole got switched off when ‘Big Bang’ made some noise in the division by stopping Joyce in six rounds. The Chinese heavyweight dominated his British adversary and picked him off with powerful left hands which caused enough damage to Joyce’s right eye for the contest to be waved off.

As part of the contract a rematch clause was put in place and Joyce shared his hopes recently that he would get the opportunity to avenge his first loss. Last month Boxing News learned that both teams were in negotiations to make a second fight happen.

In the latest episode of BT Sport Boxing’s Chatterbox Joyce spoke about Zhang’s qualities and what went wrong from his perspective.

“I was quite surprised,” he said of his opponent.

“He’s very quick and accurate with his punches and he’s no mug. He’s a very good fighter, he was just so quick. He’s a very good southpaw and he was just landing the shots at will really. I perhaps wasn’t prepared enough for him.

“I did my best [with] what I could do but I think I could do a lot better. Going back to [the] drawing board I think there’s certain things I could do to improve so it’ll be more successful because it wasn’t a great look for me. I didn’t perform well.”

Former two-weight belt holder Carl Frampton, who shares interviewing duties with Josh Denzel on Chatterbox, asked Joyce if frustration crept in against the 40-year-old.

“I was kind of uncomfortable in there,” Joyce said.

“He’s a southpaw and he knew what he was doing. I was a bit unsure. I was kind of trying to land shots, they weren’t really effective, and his ones was just getting me every time in the eye. It’s not quite hard to get away from that shot, block it or to anticipate it or something. He was coming in very fast and you’re trying to counter it. As I was throwing, as I was putting my hands out, he was going back coming straight down the middle.”

Joyce has proved in the past he is a slow starter in fights but gets better and stronger as the rounds go by. Brief moments of success against Zhang gave a glimmer of hope that he may take over in the second half but the eye injury put paid to those ideas.

“He looked like he was starting to feel the pace and if it wasn’t for the eye then I would have carried on,” Joyce said.

“The eye wasn’t terrible it was bruised. He was a tough, tough guy on the night. I think I can beat him but that performance I didn’t really get it right on the night. I’m sure I can beat him.”