Zhilei Zhang crowned WBO Interim World Heavyweight Champion in London

Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) earned the most important victory of his career with a stunning sixth-round TKO over undefeated hometown hero Joe Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs).

Zhang stunned Joyce with sharp left hands in the first two rounds. In the following round, Joyce tried to step up his offense, but his inability to see Zhang’s left hand stunted his momentum.

By rounds four and five, Zhang began comfortably landing his shots from close range, using his high guard defense to avoid return fire as Joyce’s right eye began to swell.

After two inspections from the ringside doctor, referee Howard Foster was forced to end the fight at 1:23 of round six.

Zhang said, “Today belongs to me. It belongs to everyone who showed up. It belongs to every Chinese person who showed up today.

“I’m 39 years old. But I’m disciplined. I train hard. The next step is for me to fight for a world title.”

Joyce said, “I’m just disappointed with my performance. The [left] hand kept hitting me, and I couldn’t get out of the way. So, respect to Zhilei Zhang. It was a good fight, but I think I could have done better.

“I haven’t fought a southpaw for so long. Credit to him because he’s a good fighter. I gave it my all, and I think I can do better. It’s just disappointing. I expected to win like I normally do.”