HOLLYWOOD, Fla.—Zhang Zhilei just needed that one fight to shake off any lingering ring rust.
Now comes the point when the 6’6” southpaw plans to make his run in the heavyweight division.
“I felt like I was at about 60% of where I was at in training camp,” Zhilei told BoxingScene.com through translator and co-adviser Kurt Li after his 4th round knockout of Devin Vargas this past Saturday at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. “The pandemic has affected everybody, so I have to do better in the ring with the opportunities I am able to get.”
The bout with Vargas (22-7, 9KOs)—which streamed live on DAZN—was the first for Zhilei since last November, when he went 10 rounds in a win over Andriy Rudenko in Monte Carlo. Having recently entered a promotional agreement with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA, the idea is to remain far more active while continuing to build his profile.
“We discussed before the fight how I would like to be back in the ring by February,” notes Zhilei. “But I feel good, I’m in shape and didn’t get hurt (Saturday night). Maybe we can speed that up. I'd like to come back in January, and keep fighting at that pace (in 2021).”
The 37-year old heavyweight from Zhoukou, China—who now lives and trains in Broomfield, New Jersey—is open for any challenge. There was a moment after his fight when he couldn’t help but notice the action in the ring, as Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic (12-0, 10KOs) tore through Rydell Booker inside of five rounds. In his post-fight interview, Hrgovic name-dropped Zhilei among more than one-half dozen heavyweights he'd like as a next opponent.
“Bring him on,” insists Zhilei. “Why not [Hrgovic]. Let’s do it!”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox