Zhilei Zhang was unable to come away with a win on the biggest stage of his pro career to date.
At this point, he will simply settle for a clean bill of health.
The unbeaten heavyweight was hospitalized for precautionary measures following a 10-round majority draw with Jerry Forrest this past Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The bout took place on the undercard of boxing superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s 3rd round stoppage of Avni Yildirim, with Zhang jumping out to a strong start before fading down the stretch.
His post-fight reaction provided some insight as to a contributing cause.
“Zhilei Zhang started off better than we could have hoped with three knockdowns in the first three rounds. But credit and respect to the game Jerry Forrest who battled back for a ten-round draw,” Terry Lane, Zhang’s co-manager noted in a statement on Sunday. “It was apparent to us that Zhang was not himself in the second half of the fight. He had a good training camp that included high quality sparring sessions.
“But in the locker room afterward, we noticed some concerning symptoms and took Zhang to the hospital where he will spend a couple of nights. The good news is that all of his neurological scans are clear. However, he is suffering from anemia, high enzyme levels and low-level renal failure, which may have been caused by severe dehydration.”
Zhang (22-0-1, 17KOs) jumped out to as strong of a start as he and his team could have expected. The 37-year old, 6’6” southpaw from Zhoukou, China—who trains out Bloomfield, New Jersey under former light heavyweight contender Shaun George—knocked down Forrest (26-4-1, 20KOs) in each of the first three rounds of their heavyweight bout. What seemed like a clear path to a landslide victory instead took a near disastrous turn, as Zhang dramatically slowed down in the second half and was badly rocked in the final minute of the fight.
A point deduction for excessive holding in round nine proved costly for the exhausted Zhang, with the infraction proving to be the difference between a narrow points win and the majority draw verdict to have instead come of the night. His post-fight demeanor in the locker room provided cause for his team to seek expert medical attention, with Zhang expected to be released on Monday after receiving his official diagnosis.
From there will come a hard discussion on next steps in his career.
“We will address these issues and Zhilei Zhang will be back,” vows Lane. “We want to thank everyone for their concern and kind words of support that our team has received.
“We also want to send a special thank you to Matchroom [Boxing] for providing such wonderful support at this time.”
The bout marked Zhang’s third straight on a Matchroom Boxing-promoted show, which began with a 10-round unanimous decision win over Andriy Rudenko on a Nov. 2019 show in Monte Carlo. In his most recent performance prior to Saturday night, Zhang scored a 3rd round stoppage of Devin Vargas on a Nov. 7 DAZN show from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox