Joe Joyce maintained his unbeaten record but was taken 12 rounds for the first time as a professional in a unanimous decision win over former world title challenger Bryant Jennings on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London, England.
For the first time in the paid ranks, Joyce (10-0, 9 KOs) failed to deliver a knockout and instead had to rely on his work rate to beat Jennings by scores of 118-109, 117-110, and 115-112.
It was workmanlike rather than spectacular or thrilling from Joyce, who is looking for a shortcut to a world title shot.
Joyce, from Putney in southwest London, hopes this win accelerates his momentum towards the heavyweight elite. For Jennings, it was the second defeat in a row.
Joyce, 33, wants to fight twice again this year and will consider fights against WBA "regular" titleholder Manuel Charr, European champion Agit Kabayel or even against the new British champion (the Daniel Dubois vs. Nathan Gorman winner on the same card).
"Anybody, I'm ready," Joyce said.
Jennings (24-4, 14 KOs), 34, from Philadelphia, was looking to revive his career after a last-round stoppage defeat to Oscar Rivas at the start of the year. That was the first setback Jennings had suffered since back-to-back defeats to Wladimir Klitschko, for three world titles, and Luis Ortiz, both in 2015.
And it began well for Jennings, who hurt Joyce with a left hook to the body in the first round, forcing the Briton to back away and cover up.
"It was very hard, he caught me with a very good body shot early on, and I wasn't ready for it. I was clowning around and that was a learning curve," Joyce said.
"He worked me out; he's a great fighter. I'm used to get them out earlier. I used my experience and toughness to pull through and these fights are good to teach you a lesson. If you are knocking them over you get complacent, and I guess that showed."
Joyce, known as "Juggernaut," improved in the second round and outworked Jennings again in the third round.
Joyce, who won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, ended the round with a good response after Jennings had landed a combination.
Joyce does not have lightning hand speed and can seem quite predictable, but his relentless punching has a cumulative effect and saw him build up a lead by the halfway point.
Joyce, who has also stopped former WBC titleholder Bermane Stiverne, was warned for use of the shoulder in the seventh round and seemed to run out of ideas as Jennings landed the better punches.
The American caught Joyce with a big overhand right early in the 10th round, and then flush with a right hook later in the round, but Jennings was also docked a point in the 10th for a low blow.
Jennings could not sustain any momentum, nor find the big knockout punch, as Joyce had to settle for the long route.