AHEAD of his much-anticipated domestic dust-up with Daniel Dubois, unbeaten heavyweight Joe Joyce takes on Michael Wallisch over 10 rounds in what looks to be a risky tool-sharpener at BT Sport’s studios on Saturday night (July 25). Frank Warren has rearranged Dubois-Joyce for October 24 and that’s a fight that could sell out the O2 Arena.

Public interest in the fight should be maintained by both fighting in the next few weeks. Dubois takes on Erik Pfeifer, a 7-0 fighter from Germany who boxed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, on August 29, but first, the spotlight falls on Joyce (10-0).

Wallisch is a 34-year-old German with a statistically impressive 20-3 (13) record, and the Londoner has made a change since his last fight, going back to trainer Ismael Salas.

Joyce had his first five pro fights with the Cuban, then went to train with Abel Sanchez in the States before switching to Adam Booth for his last two fights, the stoppage of Alexander Ustinov (34-3) and points win over Bryant Jennings (24-3).

There were those who felt Jennings was robbed of victory at the O2 Arena last July, while the judges had Joyce up by three, seven and nine rounds after the Philadelphian was docked a point for low blows in the 10th.

The difference in opinion came about because the quantity came from Joyce, the quality from Jennings. Fact is, Joyce put more into more rounds than Jennings and that’s why he got the decision.

Joyce kept churning out punches, while Jennings sat back looking to block and counter. Booth could be heard shouting at Joyce: “Long! Long!” but at times he would walk into mid and close range without jabbing and bring his hands back slowly and hold his feet after throwing punches, giving Jennings the chance to counter. Though Joyce took the punches that came back at him without blinking, he can’t keep taking them.

Joe Joyce

Sam Jones, of Joyce’s SJam Management team, said of the link up with Booth: “It wasn’t for us,” and added: “Joe will be 35 in September, so we had to act quickly.”

Jones says that had it not been for other demands on Salas’ time, Joyce would have stayed with him. Salas took a lucrative job training royalty in Qatar and that’s why Joyce headed to the Big Bear mountains to work with Sanchez for three fights. Because of travelling restrictions, Steve Broughton, part of the Cuban’s team when Joyce turned over with Haymaker, has been working with him in London ahead of this weekend.

Jones says the 2016 Olympic silver medalist was at his best when he was with Salas and possibly his best all-round performance came with the Cuban in his corner. On his pro debut in October, 2017, Joyce boxed on the balls of his feet and used a long jab to bust up the hardened Ian Lewison (12-3-1).

Every other time we’ve seen Joyce in the pros he’s set out to hunt down his opponent and beat them up. Only Jennings has given him any trouble and Joyce hasn’t been matched soft. Every opponent has had a winning record and with the exception of Jennings, Joyce has battered them.

He will surely go looking for 6ft 5 ½ ins Wallisch, a fighter who’s there to be hit and has been stopped in three of his last four fights. Last time out, Wallisch was beaten in three by Tony Yoka, a controversial points winner over Joyce in the Olympic final. Wallisch was down twice. He turned over in 2010 after around 30 amateur bouts, won his first 19 – including a career-best points win over 27-0 Yakup Saglam – and then ran into Christian Hammer (23-5), remembered here for getting off the floor to beat David Price, in December, 2018.
Shaken up towards the end of the fourth, Wallisch went down complaining of a head clash in the next and the referee showed him no sympathy, waving it off around the count of ‘five’.

Wallisch may have been hoping for a disqualification and again, when he fought Efe Ajagba (9-0), he made the most of being hit when he was on one knee. The referee gave him time to recover, but once the fight resumed, there wasn’t much fight left in Wallisch and it was soon over.

Wallisch and Joyce have a common opponent in the pros. Croatian Ivica Bacurin went 12 with Wallisch in 2016 and folded inside a round against Joyce two years later. That suggests a gulf between Joyce and Wallisch, but in fairness to Bacurin, tough enough to give Dillian Whyte and Tony Bellew rounds, he took the Joyce fight at short notice.

Wallisch doesn’t look the hardest to hit. Against Hammer and in previous fights, the guard was low and though he’s since got his hands up, Wallisch didn’t move his head or feet much against Ajagba and Yoka.

The feeling you get watching Wallisch in his losses is that once he senses his opponent has too much for him, he falls apart. If a heavyweight is lacking in chin or heart, Joyce will find them out, so it seems a matter of time before he gets on top of Wallisch and clobbers him to defeat. Jones says that given the 12-month break since the Jennings fight and time off from the gym we shouldn’t expect to see the best version of his fighter on this occasion.

Nevertheless, my guess is Joyce will get rid of Wallisch by the halfway point.

The show also features a good fight for the vacant Southern Area super-bantamweight title between unbeatens Ramez Mahmood (11-0) and Streatham southpaw Chris Bourke (7-0). Brad Foster has talked of vacating the British title after winning the Lonsdale belt outright two weeks ago, adding extra significance to this 10 rounder.

Bourke is a skinny puncher from the Peacock gym with a solid amateur pedigree and four wins inside three rounds as a pro – including a one-punch wipe out of Louis Norman – but Mahmood has proved more. The 26 year old from Ilford won Southern Area honours up at featherweight last September, pulling away in the second half of a hard fight against Jack Budge (4-0). The opening four rounds were toe to toe and after feeling a few body punches, Mahmood had a rethink, got on his back foot and jabbed and moved his way to victory. At 5ft 6ins, Mahmood is a couple of inches taller and though he’s not a puncher, he looks solid. Because the guard is high, he leaves gaps to the body and Bourke is known as a body puncher. He doesn’t waste many and sits down on every shot he throws. My guess is that once Mahmood feels his punch, he will get on back foot and Bourke can hunt him down for a late stoppage.

The Verdict Wallisch looks made to order for Joe Joyce.