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Joyce vs Hammer preview: The Juggernaut out to make a statement on long-awaited return from injury
After almost a year out, Joe Joyce returns to action looking to make a statement and reigniting his world championship campaign when he takes on Germany’s Christian Hammer.
Not a minute too soon, the Juggernaut returns to BT Sport this weekend as Joe Joyce takes on Christian Hammer in a heavyweight showdown exclusively live from the SSE Arena in Wembley.
The 36-year-old has endured a frustrating year since defeating Carlos Takam in July 2021, suffering a serious arm injury and dealing with the collapse of a proposed summer showdown against Joseph Parker.
But Joyce will be looking to make an explosive return against German visitor Hammer, who has shared the ring with the likes of Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin over the course of his 35-fight career.
They’ll be supported by a cracking undercard featuring a massive step up in competition for Jason Cunningham, when he takes on former two-weight world champion Zolani Tete.
With all that coming your way on Saturday night, here's why you can’t miss Joyce vs Hammer exclusively live on BT Sport 1HD from 7pm.
Big Joe ready to throw down
It’s fair to stay it’s not been the year Joe Joyce was anticipating after emerging triumphant from a gruelling encounter against Carlos Takam almost a year ago.
That win looked set to line up some big-name fights for the 6ft 6ins slugger – but a combination of injury, bad luck and confusion over the future of the heavyweight titles have seen Joyce endure a torrid time of it in recent months.
It was a serious arm injury that first struck to keep Joyce sidelined during most of 2021 but the Olympic silver medallist looked set to return with a bang in a sizzling showdown against former world champion Joseph Parker this summer.
However, Parker pulled out of negotiations at the 11th hour to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Disappointed, but undeterred, Joyce instead switched his focus to former European champion Christian Hammer.
It will be good to dust off the gloves and shake off the cobwebs
- Joe Joyce
The German veteran is a notable face in the heavyweight landscape having taken on several big names since making his debut in 2008; Hammer famously knocked out another British Olympian, David Price, in 2017 to secure the WBO European title.
At 34, Hammer is two years Joyce’s junior but vastly more experienced in the professional ranks having fought 35 times compared to Joyce's 14.
"I've known about Christian Hammer for a while now," Joyce said from his training base in Las Vegas earlier this month.
"He has fought everybody, it is going to be a good fight, he comes forward and it will be exciting. It is one to get me ready for the next fights coming up.
"I've been out of the ring for a whole year now so it will be good to dust off the gloves and shake off the cobwebs. It is going to be a big year, this year and next, with some great fights and I just need to be in the right place.
"I have taken myself to the right place with this training camp to bring out the best in me."
The stakes are high for Joyce heading into this bout, with whispers of a major fight in the works for later this year should he emerge unscathed on Saturday night.
Rumours of a potential rematch against Daniel Dubois – now in custody of the WBA regular heavyweight world title – or even a big stadium fight against Tyson Fury have been mentioned on the grapevine.
But Joyce knows he needs to get the job done in emphatic style before he can truly start planning for the future.
Only Bryant Jennings has made it to the final bell after sharing the ring with Joyce; can Hammer endure the Juggernaut’s onslaught too – or will the Londoner secure a 13th career knockout?
Crafty Cunningham looking for big-name kudos
Jason Cunningham’s remarkable rise to major title contention could take another giant leap forwards this weekend when he takes on the South African sharpshooter Zolani Tete.
Cunningham, 31-6, looked destined to remain as a respected domestic operator coming to the end of a solid, if unspectacular, career before a dominant shock win against Team GB alumni Gamal Yafai in 2021 lit the touch paper on his recent march towards world level.
The 32-year-old dropped Yafai three times during a career-best performance before following up that victory by snatching the Commonwealth and British super-bantamweight titles from Brad Foster in October last year.
I truly believe I am going to beat him
- Jason Cunningham
Cunningham, the fighting pride of Doncaster in south Yorkshire, then joined the Queensberry ranks, making his promotional debut with another magnificent performance to secure the European title against the unbeaten Frenchman Terry Le Couviour in February.
Recapping that performance last month, Cunningham said: "I was happy with it, although there was one round where I thought I got a little bit complacent, but it was because I was having it all my own way really.
"I need to be on it at this level, I can't afford any little slip-ups or lapses against Tete.
"I feel it [an aura] and it is confidence. Up until you get to the point of a major title you are always questioning yourself. Then, when you get these wins, you think 'I am good enough to fight for a world title and good enough to be a world champion'.
"I have got that confidence and that aura, 100%, and obviously it is showing in performances. It has been a brilliant year in total and I just feel the time is right now. It is my time, I am taking that confidence into the Tete fight and I truly believe I am going to beat him.”
But Tete, who is no stranger to British fight fans, will certainly not come to lie down.
The 34-year-old famously kiboshed another Brit’s world title hopes when he knocked out Paul Butler for the IBF super flyweight belt back in 2015 and has gone on to fight six further times on British soil.
Cunningham continued: “I love a challenge and it is a fight I will get credit for, that is what I thought initially. He is a name, he has been over to these shores before, he has chinned Paul Butler and I thought this is the chance to prove how good I am, also to myself.
"I know he has been inactive for the last couple of years but, still, he has been there and he has done it at multiple weights. So, yeah, I have definitely got the bit between my teeth for this fight and I just think the timing is right.
"The time is now really, if I want to be world champion I need to beat Tete, simple as that.
"To have a scalp like that on your record… I just can't wait really, I can't wait for this fight and also to share the ring with him as well. Obviously the respect is there for what he has done but, at the same time, I am coming from a different angle where he is in my way and stopping me from getting to that next level and pushing for a world title."