By Keith Idec
LOS ANGELES – Speculation persists during fight week that the real reason Tyson Fury moved his training camp last month was because he had difficulty during sparring sessions with fellow British heavyweight Joe Joyce.
Fury refuted those rumors during a conference call two weeks ago to promote his fight against Deontay Wilder on Saturday night at Staples Center. Joyce supported the undefeated Fury’s take on what the lineal heavyweight champion considered competitive sparring at Abel Sanchez’s gym in Big Bear Lake, California.
Joyce confirmed following a press conference Thursday for the Wilder-Fury undercard that rumors regarding their one-sided sparring sessions aren’t accurate.
“I think it was good competitive spars,” said Joyce, who’ll box Joe Hanks on the Wilder-Fury undercard. “I didn’t get knocked out. He didn’t get knocked out.”
The 6-feet-6, 250-pound Joyce learned plenty while sparring against a 6-feet-9, smart, skillful fighter who’s difficult to catch clean. They sparred about 30 rounds together before Fury moved to Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood for the second half of his recently completed training camp.
Fury isn’t rare just because he’s one of the few fighters the 33-year-old Joyce can box who’s taller than him. The former IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champ never wears headgear while sparring, an unusual practice among boxers.
“I think he’s got his fitness back, he’s got a new team – Ben Davison and Freddie Roach,” Joyce said. “It’s very tricky. It’s world-class sparring and we did some really good rounds and good work up in Big Bear with myself and Guido Vianello. We both took turns sparring Tyson in the Summit Gym. And yeah, he doesn’t wear head guards in sparring. He’s got such good head movement and footwork and cuts off angles and switch-hits, so you know, it’s really top-level sparring.
“It’s very competitive sparring sessions – me and Tyson or Tyson and Guido. But since then, he went down to the Wild Card gym and he’s based himself there. So he’s been sparring the likes of Johnny Rice (9-3-1, 5 KOs). He’s a really solid fighter, strong. And also, Lawrence Okolie (10-0, 7 KOs), my TGB mate, he’s also come down. He’s also got the same kind of physique as Wilder, and an unpredictable, kind of raw style. So yeah, he’s had great preparation, so we should see the best Tyson Fury.”
The scheduled 10-round bout between Joyce (6-0, 6 KOs), a 2016 Olympian, and Hanks (23-2, 15 KOs), of Newark, New Jersey, will open Showtime Pay-Per-View’s four-fight telecast Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is less than a 2-1 favorite over Fury (27-0, 19 KOs), of Manchester, England, in their 12-round fight for Wilder’s WBC title.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.