PATERSON, New Jersey – Zhilei Zhang understands why Tyson Fury has embraced what the huge Chinese heavyweight considers a complete mismatch against Francis Ngannou.

Zhang would happily accept a boxing match with an inexperienced mixed martial artist for even a fraction of the purse Fury will be paid to face Ngannou on October 28 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The WBO’s interim heavyweight champion can’t comprehend, though, why even the 37-year-old Ngannou’s staunchest supporters have convinced themselves that the hard-hitting novice has any chance whatsoever at defeating Fury in their 10-round boxing exhibition.

“Ngannou doesn’t even have a puncher’s chance,” Zhang told through his translator. “It’s a college student against a kindergartner.”

England’s Fury, the unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion, and Cameroon’s Ngannou, a former UFC heavyweight champ currently affiliated with PFL, officially began promoting their fight Thursday at a press conference in London. The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) is listed by FanDuel as a 13-1 favorite over the 6-foot-4, 257-pound Ngannou, who has a 17-3 record in MMA, including 12 knockouts.

“Money talks,” Zhang said. “You get $30, $40 million for a fight like that, you have to do it. It’s no problem.”

There was a point a few months ago when Zhang was certain that he would fight Fury next. They were well along in negotiations for Fury to battle Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) on July 22 in London, but Joe Joyce exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch with Zhang.

The 6-foot-6, 278-pound Zhang upset the 6-foot-6, 256-pound Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) by sixth-round technical knockout April 15 at Copper Box Arena in London. Zhang repeatedly landed his left hand, which created severe swelling around Joyce’s right eye and caused referee Howard Foster to stop their 12-round bout less than halfway into it.

They’re scheduled to fight again September 23 at OVO Arena Wembley in London.

“We were pretty close to making the Tyson Fury fight, until Joe Joyce activated the rematch clause,” said Zhang, who is slightly favored to beat Joyce in their second fight. “It was a roller coaster because, for me, [fighting Fury] was my ultimate goal. And I was that close to getting there. All of a sudden, Joe Joyce activated the rematch clause. But we deal with what we have in front of us. After beating Joe Joyce again, the roller coaster is still going up. We can still get there.”

The 12-round rematch between Zhang, 40, and London’s Joyce, 37, will headline a TNT Sports broadcast in the United Kingdom and Ireland. ESPN+ will stream Zhang-Joyce II as a main event in the United States.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.