Amateur king Joe Joyce has been handed a tough professional debut, but Frankie Monkhouse expects him to win, and in some style...
"Win inside the distance and it won’t be long before we see him jump the queue into the frame for major titles"
British fight fans can witness the start of big things in the heavyweight division on Friday as decorated amateur Joe Joyce makes his professional debut, in the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night, sponsored by Betfair. Expecting to see the 32-year-old push past an overweight eastern European? Think again.
Joyce and the team at Hayemaker have cut no corners in preparation for his paid bow, signalling their intent by taking on a very capable opponent in Ian Lewison, a man with a winning record, no less. 'Lay Em Out' has won 12 and drawn one of 16, but starts as an underdog in the betting.
Decorated amateur in a rush
It's obvious Team Joyce aren't prepared to wait around. They have left it late to shed the vest and sign up to the pro ranks, but having been persuaded, the Londoner is on a mission. Win on Friday at the 02 Arena and Joe Joyce will catapult himself through the rankings. Win inside the distance and it won't be long before we see him jump the queue into the frame for major titles, such as English, British and Commonwealth gongs.
The favourite achieved just about everything he had hoped for in the amateurs, his personal best being a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games. That achievement didn't stand alone, backed by gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, gold at the 2015 European Games, bronze in the 2015 World Amateur Championship and 2013 European Amateur Championships.
It's, therefore, little surprise to see Joyce picked as the winner of this by Betfair traders, with 1/16 available on the sportsbook. There may be slightly more to get excited about on the exchange at [1.09], but both prices seem to nudge us towards the method of victory market. Over the longer trip, the jolly will have more time to pick his punches, and an eye-catching KO/TKO win is available at 4/11, top price on the sportsbook, which has the points verdict at 3/1.
Lewison's certainly no pushover
Opponent Ian Lewison is as tough a professional debut as Joyce followers could have imagined. The man in the opposite corner, although written off as a no-hoper by most, including odds compilers, fought for a British title last time out. The Brixton banger was stopped in 10 by former Anthony Joshua opponent Dillian Whyte in Glasgow on the undercard of Burns-Kiryl Relikh, but more than held his own for large parts of the contest.
Twelve wins, three defeats and one draw, that loss to Whyte last year remains his only defeat in almost five years, the previous reverse coming in Prizefighter, dropping a three-round contest by a split decision. That form means he's certainly no pushover, and if Joyce, or indeed punters, take him lightly, there will be a heavy price to pay.
Each of Lewison's last two wins have come inside-the-distance, both finishing early, round two in China for a WBO Asia Pacific title, and round one at the York Hall. Carrying a 50% knockout average in his kitbag, the knockout upset is always a danger. Give it a try at a bumper 10/1, or side with experience in a points nod at 25/1, both coming at us from the sportsbook. Joyce is a novice pro, Lewison is an experienced title winner. He's also a lovely [8.8] to claim the fight.
Experience will play a part
Lewison is, of course, the more experienced man as a professional but he hasn't been seen in competitive action since losing to Whyte. Having come up short at British title level, is his heart still in it? We'll find out on Friday, but I wouldn't back him for the win, even at a cracking price.
Instead, we're having Joyce by KO/TKO at [1.28], although I don't expect this to be over early. Hard-hitting Lewison will aim to drag his opponent into unfamiliar territory, rounds four onwards, looking to catch him out when the pace takes hold.