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Joyce has 'itchy knuckles' ahead of defence

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David Oliver Joyce. Photo: Sportsfile

David Oliver Joyce. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

David Oliver Joyce. Photo: Sportsfile

David Oliver Joyce won his WBO European super bantamweight title with a decisive fifth-round stoppage of former British, European and IBF world bantamweight champion Lee Haskins in Belfast on February 1. Remarkably, it was his first fight at the weight.

"I started at lightweight," says Joyce. "Then me, my coach Pete Taylor and my nutritionist reckoned I should move down to featherweight, but I wasn't big enough."

The Mullingar man did win the WBO European featherweight title in April last year, but found featherweight really didn't suit when in October last year he lost to Leigh Wood.

"He proved just too strong," says Joyce. "After that fight in the York Hall, Pete and the nutritionist made the decision to move to super bantamweight. I find I'm stronger now than I ever was at any other weight."

With a title to defend, Joyce will be back in the York Hall tonight, where 26-year old Madrid-based Romanian challenger Ionut Baluta (13-2, 2 KOs) is vowing to take his belt.

"He'll be on a high at the minute because he beat TJ Doheny in his last fight," says Joyce.

However, the former Irish Olympian (12-1, 9 KOs) adds on Doheny's performance: "When you switch off, it's very hard to switch on. When you're not focussed enough in camp, it can be very hard."

And Joyce is ready, having worked hard over lockdown.

"We got some good weather so we did a lot of sessions outdoors in a little park beside the Colosseum Gym with Pete."

With the fight on the Josh Taylor v Apinun Khongsong world title fight bill tonight and set to be screened here and in the US, Joyce is in bullish mood.

"I've logged off all social media and I'm in fighting mode. I have itchy knuckles right now. Winning this fight will open big doors for me."