Zhilei Zhang, the WBO interim-heavyweight champion, met with Chinese media representatives in New York City to discuss his upcoming rematch with fellow Olympic silver medal winner Joe Joyce.
Zhang vs. Joyce is scheduled for September 23rd in Joyce’s hometown of London at the Wembley Arena, with ESPN+ broadcasting live in the US, Douyin in China and TNT Sports in the UK.
Zhang gave a brief update on his training camp, saying, “People say Joyce is so active and hits hard, but when it comes to sparring, I am working with Alonzo Neal, who throws more punches than Joyce, Dmytro Bezus who hits harder than Joyce, and Mariusz Wach, who at 300 pounds is bigger than Joyce.”
Neal is a 2023 National Golden Gloves finalist, Bezus is 10-1 as a professional and Wach is a well-respected veteran who fought a who's who of top heavyweights in the last ten years.
Zhang seized the WBO interim-title in April by stopping the previously unbeaten Joyce in round six. Joyce, who had severe swelling on his right eye from taking too many left hands from Zhang, was pulled out of the fight by the ringside doctor.
Following his big win, Zhang had hoped to move on to challenge WBC champion Tyson Fury, but Joyce dashed that dream, at least temporarily, by exercising his contractual right to a rematch.
Zhang did not seem disturbed by having to grant Joyce a rematch.
“I already created history on April 15th in London,” the 6’6” southpaw said. “I don’t mind doing it again on September 23rd.”
At Zhang’s side was his trainer, former light heavyweight and cruiserweight Shaun George. Perhaps referring to the 40-year-old Zhilei’s age, George added, “Camp is going great. We are not moving too fast and not moving too slow. But on September 23rd, Zhilei is going to be a savage. It doesn’t matter what Joe Joyce comes to the rematch with, we are going to be prepared to adjust to him.”
Zhang was also asked about last weekend’s four-belt heavyweight title fight that saw Oleksandr Usyk retain his belts against another British fighter, Daniel Dubois.
The win came with some controversy, with Dubois claiming he deserved a knockout victory due to a borderline punch that floored Usyk in the fifth round. However, the punch was ruled to be a low blow by referee Luis Pabon, a call that gave Usyk time to recover and eventually stop Dubois in the ninth.
Zhang was more far more sympathetic to Usyk than Dubois, commenting that, “I watched the fight and that punch was a little bit low. It landed below Usyk’s navel. After the fight resumed, Dubois did not use his physical advantages and Usyk was able to regain his rhythm. Dubois basically quit. I think Dubois needs to work on his heart.”