Heavyweights Joe Joyce and Joe Hanks share the first name and will share a ring Saturday night in Los Angeles. They've both sparred with champions Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, giving them a unique perspective on the Showtime PPV main event.
Everyone has an opinion on how Saturday night's Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury heavyweight title fight will play out, but two not-so-average Joes—who fight each other on the undercard—have a unique perspective on the SHOWTIME PPV main event (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
Joe Joyce has sparred with Fury and Joe Hanks has sparred with both Wilder and Fury. Both were left with strong impressions.
Joyce, the 6-foot-6 silver medalist from the 2016 Olympics, first met Fury when he served as the sparring partner for cousin Hughie Fury about a year ago in Bolton, England. Tyson Fury, who is 6-9, was on a hiatus from boxing at the time and gigantic. Joyce generously suggested Fury weighed 300 pounds (136kg).
Still, the man who conquered Wladimir Klitschko wanted to go a few rounds with Joyce just for the fun of it. And, despite the extra weight, he resembled the peak version of himself.
“He was still hard to hit, still awkward,” Joyce said.
Joyce now has a better sample of what Fury is capable of. The Londoner has sparred multiple times with the former heavyweight champ in the mountains of Big Bear, California, where Fury has been training for the Wilder fight.
Joyce has been impressed with what a trimmed down Fury can do.
“Tyson is highly mobile,” he said. “You don’t know where he’s going. He has good footwork. He kind of flicks out shots at you from mad angles. He’s a lot more mobile having lost a lot of weight and gotten into fight shape.”
Joyce has also sparred with Anthony Joshua, the holder of three major heavyweight titles and a prospective opponent for Wilder, the WBC titleholder, and Fury. How does Fury compare with Joshua?
“They have completely different styles,” he said. “Joshua is stronger, has a bigger muscle mass. He’s more rigid. He has a good guard. He blocks a lot of shots with his arms and hands and has a quick counter. He kind of works inside, using his hooks and uppercuts.
“Tyson is more rangy. He has a different, looser guard. He’s a lot more mobile on his feet, moving around the ring. And he switch hits. He’s one of the most talented people I’ve been in the ring with.”
Joyce wouldn’t predict who will win the Wilder-Fury fight, saying honestly, “I don’t know. I’m sitting on the fence. I’d love for Tyson to win. He’s a cool, down-to-earth guy. I get on with him. But I don’t know who will win.
“I think it’s a 50-50 fight,” he said. “I think whoever wants it more will win. Tyson is a very good boxer but Wilder got a bronze medal in Beijing (in the 2008 Olympics). He can box as well. I think it depends on how the fight goes.
“Tyson came out against Klitschko and Klitschko didn’t know what to do. If he does that with Wilder, it could be a problem for him. If Fury keeps his chin out and Wilder lands a bomb … well. We’ll see.”
“ I think it’s a 50-50 fight Tyson came out against Klitschko and Klitschko didn’t know what to do. If he does that with Wilder, it could be a problem for him. If Fury keeps his chin out and Wilder lands a bomb … well. We’ll see. ” 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist Joe Joyce
The 6-foot-4 Hanks is a one-time prospect who has fought only twice after back-to-back losses in 2013 and 2014 but has been active as a sparring partner. He has worked many times with Wilder, mostly in Wilder’s home state of Alabama.
Hanks also traveled to Bolton for a few sessions with Fury before the Englishman’s 2½-year hiatus from the sport, which was more than enough to get an idea about Fury’s style and ability.
Hanks’ strongest impression of Wilder: He’s much more than just a power puncher.
“Deontay is a lot smarter, a lot quicker than people give him credit for,” said Hanks, who is from Newark, New Jersey but lives in L.A. “Everyone is wrapped around his big right hand but he has good timing, he’s aware of where he is at all times. His [boxing] IQ is a lot higher than people think. Even when he throws his big right hand, he’s aware of when to let it go. He sets it up.
“… He’s not just out there whaling away with his right hand. He’s very smart.”
And what about Wilder’s power?
“He got my attention with it,” Hanks said with a chuckle. “I try to stay away from it as much as possible.”
Hanks acknowledges what all see in Fury, who moves remarkably well for a man his size. But that’s not the first thing Hanks thinks of when someone mentions him.
“The thing what impresses me most about him is his confidence,” Hanks said. “He’s like borderline crazy with the things he believes he can do. Once he sets in his mind he can do something, he’s not afraid to try it. That’s special.
“Even his ability to move the way he does. In his mind he’s not a big guy who can move; he’s a little guy who can move, like that’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Hanks also declined to pick a winner in the main event but he believes Wilder has at least one potential advantage.
“I spend a lot of time with Deontay,” he said. “His confidence is high. He’s proven to himself big time with [Luis] Ortiz that he can not only dish it out but also take it. And he’ll probably come in as the sharper of the two because of Fury’s inactivity. Deontay has never taken a break. That’s an advantage for him.”
And Hanks dismisses the notion that the longer the fight goes, the better chance the more-skillful Fury has.
“I don’t buy the knock on Deontay that he can’t go rounds,” he said. “Every time someone says that, he goes rounds and doesn’t get gassed. I train with him; I know he can go rounds and maintain his poise. Think about the Ortiz fight. That got hot in the end and Deontay maintained his poise.
“I’m not saying Fury is not in shape to do rounds. I just think consistency is on Deontay’s side. We’ll see what Fury is like when he’s back at this level. That’s the question mark.”