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Joe Joyce laboured to a much-needed win over Kash Ali in the 2016 Olympic medallist’s first bout since being knocked out by Zhilei Zhang.

Joyce, who lost his unbeaten record in back-to-back losses to Zhang last year, was expected to overwhelm Ali in the undercard bout in Birmingham.

Joyce struggled to land a finisher on Ali, although he grew in confidence later on.

As Ali tired, Joyce eventually brawled to a 10th-round knockout.

With seven seconds remaining of the final round, a short right hand sent Ali to the canvas for the first time in the evening.

Although the 32-year-old tried to clamber back to his feet, he was marginally too slow as the referee’s count reached 10.

Ali had been clear underdog against Joyce, but resisted some hefty blows while landing a couple of his own, and did himself credit despite some chastising words from his corner between rounds.

Joyce, meanwhile, looked cumbersome, clearly still bearing the scars from the two hefty knockout losses he suffered to Zhang – although doubts about his jaw were dispelled as he shrugged off any blows Ali landed.

The 38-year-old had called this 10-round, non-title fight a “fork in the road” of his career, having gone from being next in line to challenge for Oleksandr Usyk’s WBO title to being on the undercard at Resorts World Arena in Birmingham as Nathan Heaney versus Brad Pauls headlined.

Joyce, who had spoken about “dark times” and being “slagged off on social media”, was expected to get back in the saddle against Ali.

Ali, though, is no patsy and attempted some big shots from the off including a giant overhand right in the third round, perhaps aware that he would struggle to outpoint the Rio 2016 silver medallist.

With a three-and-a-half stone weight advantage, Joyce’s punches should have hurt Ali more, but he brought very little energy and forward momentum for most of the fight.

The fight fell into a repetitive pattern, with Joyce doing just enough to win each round but never more than the bare minimum – and certainly not enough to dispel his doubters, despite the last-gasp knockout.

#Joe #Joyce #Kash #Ali #Heavyweight #Brit #labours #10thround #stoppage #win

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