Zhilei Zhang, who turns 40 next month, is closing in on a shot at Oleksandr Usyk's WBO world heavyweight titles, after pulling off an upset sixth-round technical knockout win over Joe Joyce on Saturday.
After this win, Zhang is in line for a shot at one of Usyk's three world title belts but will have to be patient. Joyce's fellow Londoner Daniel Dubois -- if he recovers from a serious knee injury -- is first in line as the WBA mandatory challenger, and then there is Croatia's IBF leading challenger Filip Hrgovic.
"Today belongs to me," Zhang said.
"I'm 39 years old but I train hard, and next step I'm going for the title."
Zhang, with the potential of huge interest and revenue from China, will be an attractive fight for any champion, contender, promoter or broadcaster.
Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs), 37, from Putney in southwest London, never recovered after his right eye began to swell and close by the end of the first round from Zhang's accurate left-hand punches at the Copper Box Arena, in east London.
Zhang, (25-1-1, 20 KOs), 39, who is based in New Jersey but from China, has put his career back on an upward trajectory after he lost a competitive points decision to Hrgovic in his previous outing last August.
Joyce was looking for the quickest route possible to a world title shot after turning professional late, following his silver-medal achievement at the 2016 Olympics. But a lack of head movement cost Joyce, and he has now slipped further along the queue for a title shot.
"I'm disappointed with the performance," Joyce said.
"I haven't fought a southpaw for so long, I think I could do better. I kept getting hit with his left hand, but I will be back, my journey is not over."
Zhang was outstanding and took control of the fight from the first round with accurate left hands, which quickly shut Joyce's right eye and ultimately decided the fight.
Zhang, a southpaw like Usyk, started better and capitalized on Joyce's static head movement by landing a right hook in the first round. In the second round Joyce was left staggering from a left hand from Zhang and then again later in the round from another left hand and right hook.
Zhang continued to enjoy success with the straight left hand in the third and fourth rounds, as the condition of Joyce's right eye worsened. Zhang rocked Joyce with a right hook in the fourth round and finished the round with two thudding left hands.
The Chinese boxer was put on the back foot early in the fifth round, but Joyce could not see the left hands coming and continued to get caught. After the second inspection by the ringside doctor in Round 6, the fight was stopped by referee Howard Foster, and it was the correct decision.
Fights against Usyk, WBC champion Tyson Fury or former champion Anthony Joshua now look a long way off for Joyce.
Lightweight Mikaela Mayer edges closer to champion Katie Taylor
Mikaela Mayer was not unsettled by a late change of opponent as she unanimously outpointed Lucy Wildheart on the undercard of Joyce-Zhang.
The American earned landslide scores of 98-92, 100-90, 98-91 over late replacement Wildheart for the WBC interim lightweight title, which moves Mayer closer to a shot at undisputed world lightweight champion Katie Taylor, who fights England's Chantelle Cameron on May 20.
"She stepped in last minute and that was really gutsy of her, so props to her," Mayer said.
"I like to fight on the inside, so once I knew she couldn't outbox me I tried to break her down to the body.
"I know that Katie Taylor is going for rematch with Amanda Serrano [after her fight with Cameron], and if that happens I will challenge the winner of that. I want the toughest challenge possible."
Mayer (18-1, 5 KOs), 32, an Olympian who fights out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, produced a classy performance to contain a gutsy Wildheart and earn the WBC interim lightweight title.
Wildheart (10-2, 4 KOs), 30, who is from Sweden but trains in England, stepped in on 24 hours' notice but was in terrific condition and not shy of getting on the front foot. Mayer's accuracy was decisive, though, catching Wildheart with right hooks from the third round and then became increasingly dominant as the fight went on.
Mayer, who had a lot of success with body shots, produced the more quality punches and looked sharp, but Wildheart ensured the former junior lightweight champion worked hard for her win.
Mayer, 32, was due to face Christina Linardatou, 34, from Greece, a former victim of Taylor, in her first fight at lightweight. But Linardatou failed a medical and Mayer had to adjust to a late change of opponent to stay on course for a possible shot at Taylor, ESPN women's pound-for-pound No 2.
Mayer, who lost her IBF and WBO junior lightweight titles to fellow American Alycia Baumgardner on points in October after three successful defenses, is targeting Taylor or a Baumgardner rematch. Taylor (22-0, 6 KOs), 36, from Ireland but based in the United States, will not be available until late 2023 at least, with a rematch against Serrano, from Puerto Rico but based in New York, in the pipeline if she beats Cameron in a fight for the undisputed world junior welterweight title in Dublin, Ireland, next month.