A heavyweight boxer set for a major British title fight is also a talented painter who plans to study for a Masters.
Joe Joyce will face Daniel Dubois in an eagerly-awaited clash between two undefeated fighters at the O2 Arena in London on April 11th.
But before he launched his boxing career, Joe was used to working on a different canvas and graduated from Middlesex University with a fine art degree in 2009.
The Putney-born fighter, who began oil painting from the age of seven as his dad was also an artist, has a “vast collection of paintings”.
Joe told us: “Once an artist, always an artist.
“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 Masters after I’ve retired from boxing and to start it up again.”
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 adds.
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.”
His time at Middlesex University “opened my eyes” and gave him the confidence to “paint what he wanted”.
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.”
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.
Since turning professional, Joe has knocked out nine of his 10 opponents including top fighters such as American Bryant Jennings and Canadian Bermane Stiverne.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
He continued: “I know I have to have a very strong game plan so it can be executed on the night.
“I’ve always wanted to become the world champion and to be the best you have to beat the best.
“Dubois is very strong and he’s a good puncher.
“He’s very powerful and has good boxing ability.
“But he hasn’t got good experience and I would have knocked out all the guys he’s fought.
“Fujimoto? (Dubois stopped him in round two) I would have knocked him out in the first round.”
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.
“Wilder has got that real equalizer punch and he’s patient.
“He can take a punch and lose every single round but then still have that ability to knock you out at any moment.
“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.”