A former Middlesex University art student turned heavyweight boxer and Olympic silver medallist is set for the biggest fight of his career.
Joe Joyce, who graduated from MDX with a fine art degree in 2009, will face Daniel Dubois at the O2 Arena in London on April 11th.
The British and Commonwealth title fight announced last Friday is eagerly-awaited because both Joe, 34, and Dubois, 22, are undefeated and tipped to become world champions.
“This is a major fight - a real snakes and ladders fight,” Joe told us.
“One will step up the ladder or cross a big snake.
“I’m determined to win and I’m determined to stop him.
“I’ll be training diligently in the run up to the fight.”
He added: “He’s ranked third in the WBO (World Boxing Organisation) rankings so a win could put me in contention for world title fights.
“It could be a big springboard.”
Joe’s life has changed dramatically since he first began learning to box while a third year postgraduate at Middlesex University.
He took up the sport after injuries curtailed his dreams of a career in athletics as a long or triple jumper.
With his competitive drive and natural sporting ability, Joe forged a successful amateur career that led to a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics – in the final accolade of Team GB’s impressive haul of 67 medals.
Since turning professional, Joe has knocked out nine of his 10 opponents including top fighters such as American Bryant Jennings and Canadian Bermane Stiverne.
Boxing pundits have praised his toughness and relentless style.
In Dubois, however, he faces the young British and Commonwealth title holder with an equally admirable record who has been likened to World Champion Anthony Joshua.
That’s not to say Joe’s chances are being written off.
Veteran boxing promoter Frank Warren – who manages Joe and Dubois – described matching Dubois against an experienced opponent such as Joe as the “biggest risk” of his 40-year career.
Joe told us “All the British boxing fans and even casual boxing fans have been very interested in the fight.
“It is going to be an exciting from the start - with lots of exchanges.
“He can give a great shot but I can take a great shot and give a great shot back.
“His chin hasn’t been tested yet but I guarantee his chin will be tested like never before on April 11th.”
🚨 IT'S OFFICIALLY ON 🚨— Boxing on BT Sport 🥊 (@BTSportBoxing) February 7, 2020
Daniel Dubois and Joe Joyce are going to put on a heavyweight fire fight at the O2 🔥
Absolutely guaranteed a knockout 👊#DuboisJoyce | April 11 | BT Sport Box Office pic.twitter.com/5bMH0VUVKI
One of Joe’s victories – a round one knockout of American Joe Hanks - was on the undercard of the first fight between Deontay Wilder and Briton Tyson Fury in Las Vegas in December 2018 and he will be a very interested observer when they meet again on February 22nd.
“I thought Fury won the first fight but unfortunately he didn’t get the decision - that’s boxing for you,” Joe added.
“The danger is as well with the fight being in America that Fury could outbox him again and still not get the decision.
“I would probably bet on Wilder but I know Fury personally and would love to see him bring back the WBC belt to England – and then fight me with the belt on the line.”
Despite the prospect of such lucrative fights, Joe's passion for painting has not diminished and he is considering further studies or teaching art.
The Putney-born fighter began oil painting from the age of seven as his dad was a fine art lecturer.
His time at MDX “opened my eyes” and gave him the confidence to “paint what he wanted”.
During his first year Joe said he focused on portraits and would incorporate “spiritual and symbolic” messages into his paintings.
He added: “I was like every other young person, struggling with what I wanted to do with my life.
“I was good at art and I was good at sport but Middlesex University helped me to find myself and my style.”
The 6ft 6in boxer has been a keen supporter of the Made in Middlesex campaign, which celebrates the exceptional achievements of former students, alumni and staff.
Despite the extreme difference, Joe said both painting and fighting met his motto to “continually improve myself".
“With painting, the more you paint the better you get and it’s the same principle with boxing,” he added.
He has a “vast collection” of paintings and has not ruled out studying for a Masters when he hangs up his gloves.
“Once an artist, always an artist," he added.
"I love art whether I get a chance to create it or not.
“My sole focus is boxing at the moment, because I don’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.
“So I'm being a master of one for now..
“But my long term thought is to do a Master’s after I've retired from boxing and to start it up again.”
Sadly Joe didn’t get the chance to celebrate his graduation 11 years ago.
“I left for China to train with the Shaolin Kung Fu masters a day before the graduation ceremony,” he said.
“I haven’t even got a picture with the robe.”