Heavyweight Joe Joyce, moving quickly up the ranks, will next face longtime contender Bryant Jennings in what is seemingly Joyce's toughest test to date.
They will meet in the co-feature of the vacant British heavyweight title fight between rising talents Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman on July 13 (ESPN+) at the O2 Arena in London, promoter Frank Warren announced on Wednesday.
"Bryant Jennings is a quality fighter who operates at world level and this is the perfect fight for Joe to showcase his credentials and put himself in the running for major titles," said Warren, who co-promotes Joyce with Ringstar Sports' Richard Schaefer. "This is a step up in class for Joe and a mark of the progress he has made. It is the opportunity for him to post a big message to the heavyweight champions and contenders that a new force is rapidly making up the ground towards world title contention."
Joyce (9-0, 9 KOs), 33, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist for Great Britain, is on the fast track due to the late start to his pro career. He knocked out notable opponents in his previous two fights, Alexander Ustinov in the third round in May and former world titlist Bermane Stiverne in the sixth round in February. But Jennings comes into the bout a younger, fresher fighter than those opponents.
Although Jennings (24-3, 14 KOs), 34, of Philadelphia, is coming off a 12th-round knockout loss to unbeaten Oscar Rivas in a competitive bout on Jan. 18, he gave Wladimir Klitschko a few problems in a unanimous decision loss while challenging him for the unified heavyweight title in 2015. Jennings' only other loss came by knockout to top contender Luis "King Kong" later in 2015.
"Bryant Jennings has been in very big fights and he gave Wladimir Klitschko a tough night before he fought Tyson Fury (in his 2015 title loss)," Joyce said. "He is also probably Luis Ortiz's best win. I respect Bryant for stepping up and taking this fight. I intend to send a statement to the heavyweight division on July 13th and it won't be long before I get my hands on those big titles."
Jennings owns victories against former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko, former world title challenger Artur Szpilka and Mike Perez. He said he knows what he is getting into by taking on Joyce -- on Joyce's turf on top of that.
"This is a high-risk, good-reward fight. It makes getting in the ring worth it," Jennings said. "I don't mind the test. I don't mind the challenge. That's just who I am. I am the only one who can beat myself. Nobody can beat me. When I've lost, it's been because of me, not my opponent.
"I am ready to go now. The Oscar Rivas fight is in the past, and I'm ready for the challenge that's ahead of me. After this, I'm coming after all the other U.K. heavyweights. They are the ones running the division."
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who promotes Jennings and works closely with Warren, said he thinks his man can pull the upset.
"People will see how dangerous Bryant Jennings really is," Arum said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see him easily beat Joe Joyce. Bryant has fought the best heavyweights in the world, and Joe has seen nothing like him as a professional."