Former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder should have seen his 2024 mapped out with certainty on December 23 last year with a victory over Joseph Parker. 

However, the New Zealander did not read Turki Alalshikh’s script and instead proceeded to outclass and outfight Wilder who needed to win to secure a showdown with long-time rival, Anthony Joshua. 

The defeat to Parker forced the American to return to the drawing board at the age of 38, an age not hugely common with turnarounds in form.

Undeterred, Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KOs) returns to face Zhilei Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KOs) on June 1 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the anticipated Matchroom vs. Queensberry event with the “Bronze Bomber” representing the former.

Inactivity had plagued Wilder before his defeat to Parker. During an interview with Fighthup TV, Wilder admitted that the inactivity had affected his performance, ultimately preventing Wilder from pulling the trigger to detonate his trademark right hand.. 

“I could say a lot of things, but I don’t want to make excuses because even when you’re truthful about certain things, people say it’s excuses,” Wilder told Fighthub TV.

”One of the things that went wrong was the inactivity. I was out for two years. I didn’t even notice I was out that long because of certain things that I was doing. I just couldn’t pull the trigger when it was time too. So a different time, a different moment.”

After the loss to Parker, Wilder was visibly frustrated and admitted that he needed to consider his future. However, returning to the gym shortly after his defeat in December has re-ignited the fire.

“I became a gym rat again. I became a gym rat, and then I found the love back. I found the fire back. I put more fuel to my fire, and I’m re-lit now; Wilder continued to add on his journey of rediscovering his love for the sport. 

Against Zhang, Wilder is willing to play the long game and not go out of his way to seek a quick one-punch knockout while remaining respectful of the threat that his rival poses.

“I like that he [Zhang] brings power, and he got a nice hook and different things like that. He looks very confident in what he does inside the ring, and I think it’s going to bring an exciting fight come Saturday night,” said Wilder regarding his encounter with Zhang on June 1. 

“I don’t want people to think I’m just looking for one punch. I want to go in. I want to give a great fight. I want to come in, set him up with jabs, hooks, and then the big bang and knock Zhang out.”