LAS VEGAS – It isn’t the high-stakes elimination match for which Zhang Zhilei prepared, but it is better than having trained for nothing.
BoxingScene.com has learned that the unbeaten Chinese heavyweight will square off against American Scott Alexander in a 10-round fight on the Canelo Alvarez-Dmitry Bivol undercard Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. Los Angeles’ Alexander (16-4-2, 8 KOs) replaced Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic (14-0, 12 KOs), who withdrew recently from what was supposed to be an IBF title eliminator versus Zhilei to determine the mandatory challenger for the upcoming rematch between champion Oleksandr Usyk and former champ Anthony Joshua.
The death of Hrgovic’s father early in April disrupted his training camp and caused him to pull out on short notice (https://www.boxingscene.com/filip-hrgovic-withdraws-from-ibf-eliminator-with-zhang-zhilei-on-canelo-bivol-undercard--165941). According to the IBF’s rules, the Hrgovic-Zhilei fight must be rescheduled if Zhieli defeats Alexander.
Though less intriguing than Zhilei-Hrgovic, Zhilei-Alexander will still be part of the pay-per-view portion of the Alvarez-Bivol undercard ($59.99 for DAZN subscribers; $79.99 for non-subscribers).
In Alexander, the 6-foot-6 Zhilei (23-0-1, 18 KOs) will encounter a 33-year-old veteran who lost an eight-round unanimous decision to Puerto Rico’s Carlos Negron (25-3, 20 KOs) in his last fight. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Alexander hasn’t fought in the year since he lost to Negron last May 1 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
Alexander previously lost a 10-round majority decision to Travis Kauffman in his highest-profile fight, which took place in June 2018 at Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California.
The 39-year-old Zhilei, who won the super-heavyweight silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, stopped Craig Lewis (14-5-1, 8 KOs) in the second round of his most recent fight, on the Teofimo Lopez-George Kambosos Jr. undercard November 27 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
Zhilei settled for the lone blemish on his record in his previous fight.
The strong southpaw knocked down American veteran Jerry Forrest once apiece in the first, second and third rounds. An extremely fatigued Zhilei allowed Forrest (26-4-2, 20 KOs) to get back into their fight, however, struggled down the stretch and settled for a 10-round majority draw on the Alvarez-Avni Yildirim undercard in February 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.