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12 Rounds with Joe Joyce

We spoke with Olympic silver medallist Joe Joyce about his boxing career, his love of art and which of his past fights he'd most like to revisit

Joe Joyce

Some fights don't need to be sold. This Saturday's meeting between unbeaten British heavyweights Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce pits two knockout artists against one another, with the winner likely to land a world title shot in 2021. 

Ahead of the weekend blockbuster, we went 12 rounds with Joyce - fortunately over an interview rather than in the ring. 

Joyce is an atypical boxer: he's a keen artist for one thing, an art graduate whose paintings include his hero Muhammad Ali (OK, that one's a bit more typical). 

Plus I doubt many boxers reference their star sign (he's a Virgo, like all the best people). 

Read on and make sure to tune in on Saturday night. 

How did you take up the sport?

At the time, I was around 18 and doing athletics at uni. I had a bit of time over the summer when I was back home and I joined the local boxing club, that’s when I became interested in it. I was always interested in martial arts and boxing was like a bread and butter fighting style.

I enjoyed kickboxing growing up - kickboxing, karate, kung-fu and stuff like that, but it was the kickboxing that I enjoyed, like the sparring aspect of it and I felt like I’d just like to hit a bag and do some sparring. I think boxing is a lot more hands-on and you put full power into your punches.

Who were your idols growing up?

Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Michael Jordan.

Muhammad Ali was one of my idols because he transcended the sport and it was like a whole movement. Him enlisting in the army and standing up for his rights and also being a great boxer and a great role model.

I’d obviously heard of Mike Tyson and Chris Eubank, but I wasn’t into boxing at that time growing up. I was more interested in rugby and martial arts, so that’s where Bruce Lee comes in.

I used to watch all of his films and practised some of the moves and kicks. I was good at nunchucks too. He was all about getting your body into peak condition and I liked that philosophy.

 What teacher / coach / teammate made the biggest impact on your development?

Hernandes Pinnada. He took an interest in me from seeing me on the diving board doing tricks and flips. He knew my Mum and was doing some personal training with her.

He had been to the Olympics doing hurdles, so he saw that I had the sporting potential. He was saying that I could do something in sport and he really gave me that motivation.

He also trained me for free at the track and in the gym and he changed my mindset that things like that were possible. So, without him, I probably wouldn’t have reached sporting excellence.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Work smart not hard.

And USE YOUR JAB.

Have you ever come close to quitting the sport?

I feel like if I had started boxing earlier in my life, then I might have considered it because all of the other sports I did growing up, I got to a point where I’d had enough of it and then moved on to something else. 16 is always the age where you’ve been doing it all of your childhood, you get to 16 and you start changing, you start going out and your focus shift away from sport.

Because I started when I did, I was struggling hard to become an athlete and get to the Olympics. When I found boxing, I was ready for that commitment. I always had another fight to train for and all I had to do was to keep winning to be successful and every step was getting me closer to my goal.

My first goal was to get to the AVAs and then when I got on the GB team, I was looked after. There was always a new goal to strive for from then on.

Talk us through your pro debut – were you more nervous or excited? What is your defining memory of the occasion?

For my debut, I had a really good opponent in Ian Neilson and in my training camp, I injured my bicep and it was just getting back to being able to throw a decent right hand, but the hooks and uppercuts were really hurting. I wasn’t nervous but that was something I had to deal with. I think Sam (Jones) was more worried than I was. I got through that and won my fight.

The defining memory of the occasion was that I could win a fight with just my left hand.

What would you say is your best singular performance to date?

Filip Hrgovic in WSB and that was over 5 three minute rounds and it was a very close fight.

It was one of those fights where I felt really good from winning and I felt like he was the hardest guy I’d fought so far. I thought that it was a good win.

And your biggest career achievement?

Winning the Commonwealth title in my fourth fight which I think is a heavyweight world record for the quickest time to a Commonwealth title and that was against Lenroy Thomas.

Who’s been your toughest opponent?

I am my biggest opponent. It’s a hard life to continually be training and you’re trying to learn and improve all the time and you can see your strengths and your weaknesses and you always want to improve and make something better. It’s on you to get out of bed and train.

It’s a battle. You’re always battling to improve, to get better, to get stronger and faster as well as better technically.

Also, being a Virgo, I’m a perfectionist so I want to get things right, although you learn by your mistakes.

If you could fight one bout again, which would it be and why?

Usyk in WSB. I am much more experienced and know how to deal with a southpaw now! I had no southpaw sparring before that fight. 

What are your goals for the remainder of your career?

Heavyweight titles. I rose to the top in amateurs and got the highest heights of amateur boxing and the Olympics and I want to do the same in a professional arena.

What plans do you have for retirement? Do you have any particular interests away from the sport?

“As a hobby, I’d like to pick up art again and perhaps do a Masters. I also find training and teaching people very rewarding.

I used to be a swimming and diving teacher and I would find it very rewarding passing on my scores. 

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Watch Daniel Dubois vs Joe Joyce on BT Sport on Saturday 28 November 

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