Joe Joyce has exercised the rematch clause for a return bout with Zhilei Zhang, Joyce's manager, Adam Morallee, told ESPN on Monday.
The 40-year-old Zhang scored a massive upset when he stopped Joyce in the sixth round of their heavyweight bout last month in London.
Zhang, an Olympic silver medalist, is in the running to fight heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in July. However, Joyce has the contractual option to hold the rematch with Zhang in either of Zhang's next two fights. Queensberry promotes Fury, Joyce and has options on Zhang for his next three bouts.
"Joyce had the right to call for the rematch in either of the next two fights but has chosen to have the fight now," Morallee said. "I think he would have won the first fight had it continued and the eye hadn't gone.
"I think he would have swarmed him in the second half of the fight. That was always going to be a fight of two halves and unfortunately he got injured in the first half."
Zhang, a 6-1 underdog, punished Joyce, whose right eye was completely swollen shut when the fight was stopped on the advice of the ringside doctor in Round 6.
With the victory, Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) placed himself in pole position for the Fury assignment this summer. But now that Joyce has exercised the rematch clause, he would have to allow Zhang to fight Fury first.
"This is the only fight we're looking at," Morallee said. "Get him back in his mandatory position and go for [the title shot]."
Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) lost his WBO interim heavyweight title in the bout, which guaranteed the 37-year-old a shot at unified champion Oleksandr Usyk. Joyce is also an Olympic silver medalist (he captured his medal in 2016; Zhang in '08).
The Londoner dropped to No. 9 in ESPN's heavyweight rankings, while Zhang debuted at No. 7. Zhang's lone career defeat in the pros came in August when he dropped a controversial decision to Olympic bronze medalist Filip Hrgovic.
"We don't see the fight playing out differently; it's just a bad style matchup for Joe, and we have no problem fighting him again," said Zhang's manager, Terry Lane. "He's a very tough fighter; we have all the respect for Joe."
However, there's still hope from Zhang's side that something can be worked out so the Fury fight can take place next.
"We want the fight and we're prepared to take the fight in July," Lane said. "We're looking forward to talking about it."