JOE JOYCE has been backed to beat Anthony Joshua by a sparring partner who said the heavyweight was "way better" than he expected.
Joyce has been calling to fight former Team GB camp-mate AJ and is currently the WBO mandatory challenger.
It means he will be in line to face the winner between Joshua, 32, and Oleksandr Usyk, 35, who rematch on August 20 in Saudi Arabia.
But to keep busy, Joyce, 36, beat Romanian Christian Hammer, 34, in four rounds after spending time in America training.
There, he sparred 15-6 Jonnie Rice, 35, who was left mightily impressed by the unbeaten contender.
Rice told SunSport: "I am a big fan of Joe Joyce, I was happy to work with him. The man is amazing.
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"He did way better because it was just amazing what he did with Christian Hammer, because Christian Hammer is no joke.
"No matter what anyone says, he's no joke at all."
Joyce has now got to play the waiting game as the next challenger in line for the world title.
And he will eagerly anticipate as Joshua attempts to avenge the loss he suffered to Usyk last September.
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But with AJ coming off a one-sided defeat, and Joyce scoring his 13th knockout in 14 fights, Rice picks only one winner between them.
He said: "I'd have to give it to Joe Joyce, right now.
"With boxing time is a factor, maybe Anthony Joshua earlier in the day, nobody was doing anything with him.
"I was studying Anthony Joshua – and I still do now – but it just seems Joe Joyce right now is getting stronger and stronger."
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