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Joe Joyce has Joseph Parker and Daniel Dubois rematches up for grabs as he pledges entertainment vs. Kash Ali

EXCLUSIVE — A year ago it would have been impossible to imagine a blockbuster schedule of fantasy heavyweight fights without Joe Joyce being prominently involved.

In March 2023, when the boxing world was entirely unaware of Turki Alalshikh and his grand plans, Joe Joyce was a 15-0 star with 14 KOs and the world at his feet.

When Oleksandr Usyk confronted Tyson Fury in the ring after his Wembley blowout against Derek Chisora in December 2022, Joyce was also part of the tomfoolery. He was firmly in the picture for the biggest fights. Plenty of good judges picked him to beat Anthony Joshua, while there was palpable interest over how “The Juggernaut” and his granite chin might hold up to Deontay Wilder’s bombs.

Then Zhilei Zhang happened. Twice.

The towering Chinese southpaw forced a sixth-round stoppage when the pair met at London’s Copper Box in April 2023 when the ringside doctor ruled Joyce’s right eye was too badly swollen shut to continue. When they reconvened, the Briton was again a sitting duck for Zhang’s heavy hands before being knocked out by a lethal right hook at the end of round three.

MORE: Zhilei Zhang vs Joe Joyce 2, Chinese star crushes Juggernaut in three and calls out Fury

“The first fight I thought I’d win. That’s why I took the fight” Joyce told The Sporting News ahead of his ring return against Kash Ali on Queensberry’s Magnificent Seven card in Birmingham on Saturday. “It’s a risk but I thought it was an educated risk. I thought I could wear him out in the later rounds and knock him out. But that didn’t go to plan.

“The second fight, I did everything. I pulled out all the stops in training and did everything in my power to get the best out of myself. That wasn’t good enough, I got knocked out even sooner. Credit to Zhang, though. That’s what happens in boxing.”

That win propelled Zhang into a plum matchup in heavyweight boxing’s Saudi era. On the undercard of Joshua’s explosive win over Francis Ngannou, Zhang decked Joseph Parker twice but dropped a majority decision to the resurgent New Zealander.

Parker had ripped up Alalshikh’s best-laid plans of a Joshua vs. Wilder showdown by handily out-pointing the “Bronze Bomber” on December’s “Day of Reckoning” card.

“The all-heavyweight card, that was brilliant,” said Joyce, who was captivated by his old foe Parker claiming a career-best win. “I stayed here in front of my computer watching from about four o’clock. That was great.”

Daniel Dubois also claimed a restorative victory against Jarrell Miller on the December card. Dubois and Parker stand as the most significant scalps for 2016 Olympic silver medalist Joyce in the pro game. It highlights how heavyweight boxing’s helter-skelter landscape of snakes and ladders has been sent into overdrive by truckloads of Middle Eastern cash.

MORE: Day of Reckoning full card results

“Yeah, I fancy that,” Joyce conceded when the prospect of fighting in Saudi Arabia was put to him. His promoter Frank Warren effectively being part of Alalshikh’s inner circle means the 38-year-old is well-placed if he can get past Ali in style.

“It’s an exciting time in boxing, especially heavyweight boxing. There’s so many good matchups and great fighters that I think the fans have got a lot of choice. It’s unique for heavyweights to be given this opportunity.”

Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury will finally put their unbeaten records on the line when they clash for undisputed heavyweight glory on May 18, but the big winners of the Saudi excursions so far have been Joshua and Parker — men with three defeats apiece on their records who were widely assumed to have seen better days.

That bodes well for Joyce if he does what he is supposed to this weekend. A rematch with Parker or Dubois, a redemption face-off with Wilder or even serving as a comeback foe for Ngannou should he wish to continue his boxing journey. Put the likeable, all-action heavyweight into those matchups and the world will watch with interest.

“I think I’m at a decent level,” Joyce said. “I was top three or top five in the world. It proves that I’m a proper, proper fighter. A lot of people will want to see me fight other fighters. Styles make fights and it is an entertainment sport. I think I’m bringing entertainment.

“I’ve got a blemish on my record now. I was 15-0 back then. Now, having been a name I can fight other fighters and I don’t need to worry about losing my unbeaten record.”

He added: “I think everyone should just fight everyone. It is entertainment, instead of being really tactical and trying to keep the unbeaten record and stuff like that, just get in there, have a fight like men and then there are other fights to be made.”

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