JOE JOYCE admitted he is "gutted" after his shock loss to Zhilei Zhang but was sent a classy message of support from his rival.
The 2016 Olympic silver medallist was stunned in defeat to Zhang, who scored a sixth-round technical knockout.
Joyce's right eye was gruesomely swollen and the referee and ringside doctor deemed him unable to continue.
It saw the heavyweight suffer defeat for the first time in his professional career, leaving his title hopes in tatters.
But Joyce vowed to overcome the setback as he spoke out the morning after the loss.
He posted on Instagram: "Gutted, so annoying that I lost, but credit to Zhilei Zhang for giving me a good fight and getting the victory. I’ll be back."
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Zhang commented: "You are a warrior and true gentleman. You will come back stronger."
Joyce, 37, lost his WBO interim title and mandatory shot at the full belt held by Oleksandr Usyk, 36.
Zhang, who turns 40 in May, inherits the belt and pole position while opening the door to a rematch.
He told SecondsOut: “Yeah, I’ll do it if Joe Joyce wants to do it. I’ll do it in London, New York, or China.
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“Failure doesn’t mean anything. If I failed tonight. I’ll go back and watch my video and work on my weakness, and I’ll come back again."
But Joyce told talkSPORT: “When you take risks, sometimes it doesn’t go your way. I’m just disappointed, but I’ll be back.
"It’s not the end of my journey. If I decide to rematch him next or whenever, I’ll be back.
"I’ll be reviewing my loss and seeing where I can make improvements and stuff, but yeah, just massively disappointed."
In a separate interview with BBC Sport, Joyce added: "We're going to discuss it. I could have one in between. I'm just going to decide.
"I'm going to have some time off and reflect and watch the tape back and see where I went wrong."
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