“He annoys me sometimes. He’s just not my cup of tea,” Joe Joyce tells The Sportsman of his feeling towards Daniel Dubois, the man he’ll go toe-to-toe with in the ring on 28 November for the Commonwealth and EBU European heavyweight belts in what he admits is the biggest fight of his career.
The pair have come to verbal blows in the build-up for this one but when Dubois spoke to us just days ago, he insisted it was nothing personal and strictly business. When we speak to Joyce, one senses this isn’t a fight dripping with hatred, more like the irritation of an annoying sibling.
“He’s alright,” adds Joyce. “He’s just the young kid off GB who was there when I was in the squad and he’s a heavy hitter and stuff…”
Joyce, at 35, has 12 years on his opponent and since their time as part of the Team GB set-up, their careers have both enjoyed an upward trajectory. This bout is a risky one for both, with one of their unbeaten records set to come to a crashing end. Joyce isn’t so convinced by Dubois’ previous opponents and believes he has the upper hand going into this one.
“I think he’s 15 [wins] and 14 KOs, and I’m 11 [wins] and 10 KOs, but I guess the level of opponents differ so we’re more equal,” he claims. “Even though he’s had more fights, if they’re easy fights that don’t test anything then you’re going in the ring, you’re knocking the guy out in the first couple of rounds, and you’re not really learning anything.
“I guess with Dubois, he maybe needs his confidence built and that’s probably why Frank Warren and Queensbury have given him these easy fights to boost his confidence and build him up like that.”
Dubois has been tipped as the favourite, but Joyce isn’t having any of it and you can hear in his voice how supremely confident he is in his own ability.
“It’s mad,” he laughs. “The bookies have him winning the fight, so I’m the underdog, and whatever happens is a bonus because apparently I’m going to get knocked out!
“I’ve got my engine, punch variety and punch output, I’ve got a good chin and can go into the later rounds, whereas he is a strong puncher, explosive, and he’s good for the fundamentals and the earlier rounds.
“I predict he will be trying to knock me out but he won’t manage to do that; it will get to the later rounds and then I’ll knock him out,” he says with certainty.
Now the fight is almost here, Joyce reflects on how the global pandemic forced two postponements, and though his progress was stunted he’s now firing on all cylinders and feeling good.
“It’s heartbreaking having to leave Vegas after having such a great training camp as I was just hitting the peak where I was really starting to feel good in sparring, my fitness was on top form and I was going in a really good direction,” he explains.
“Then we had to cut it short and there was a mad dash back to the UK to then go into lockdown. There were some perks, like the weather was great, there was plenty of time to go for bike rides, chill out and have picnics,” he laughs, “Going out on the rooftop, bit of time to play computer games uninterrupted… But it just really sucked to have been in such good form going into the fight and then it was postponed, postponed postponed.
“Now it’s finally happening, it’s without a crowd, not on pay-per-view, but it’s a fight I need to get out the way to progress in my career because there aren’t other big fights and paydays like this right now.
“Camp’s going really well, we’ve got [Ismael] Salas over and Steve Broughton has been bringing me along. I’ve hit the ground running, really just fine-tuning, improving my game and spotting the little mistakes I’ve been making. I’m improving every day and every week and getting fitter and stronger and more technical as the weeks go on. I’ve been doing eight rounds today.”
Victory is set to open a million doors for the winner, and Joyce is eager to reap the rewards.
“This is definitely the biggest fight of my professional career; obviously you can’t really beat the Olympics but this is the biggest domestic fight and it has a lot of belts on the line and the winner takes it all. I heard Warren talking about a potential world title fight for the winner, so that is definitely a very interesting proposition,” he laughs. “Worst comes to worst there is a Plan B, but I’m planning on winning.”