Now that he has violently knocked out Joe Joyce in their rematch, Zhilei Zhang wants to fight an even bigger British heavyweight promoted by Frank Warren next.
The gigantic Chinese southpaw wasted no time whatsoever calling out Tyson Fury in the immediate aftermath of his destructive third-round knockout of Joyce on Saturday night at OVO Arena Wembley in London. Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) maintained his spot as the WBO’s mandatory challenger for one of Oleksandr Usyk’s titles, but the biggest potential payday for the WBO interim champion is a shot at the undefeated Fury’s WBC belt.
When asked who he wants to fight next toward the end of his post-fight interview in the ring, Zhang replied, “The audience, I wanna ask you a question – do you wanna see me shut Tyson Fury up?”
Fury, of course, is preparing for a pay-per-view showdown with former UFC heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou on October 28 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. If the heavily favored Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) wins that 10-round, non-title fight, he could defend his title against Zhang next because he hasn’t been ordered to make a mandatory defense by the WBC.
Negotiations nearly resulted in an agreement for Fury to fight Zhang after the 2008 Olympic silver medalist upset Joyce by sixth-round technical knockout April 15 at Copper Box Arena in London. Though it seemed as if Fury-Zhang would materialize, London’s Joyce (15-2, 14 KOs) eventually exercised his contractual right to an immediate rematch and Zhang-Joyce II was scheduled for Saturday night.
The 35-year-old Fury then finalized a deal to fight Cameroon’s Ngannou in this lucrative crossover event. Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic (16-0, 13 KOs), the IBF’s mandatory challenger, is next in line to fight for another of Usyk’s championships, though, which has left Zhang in position to pursue a Fury fight.
Like Fury, who is co-promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc., the 40-year-old Zhang is represented by Warren’s Queensberry Promotions.
“I was very close to [making] a deal with Tyson Fury, until Joe Joyce activated his rematch clause,” Zhang told Queensberry Promotions’ Dev Sahni before he left the venue Saturday night. “Now no more barriers. The road is clear. Let’s do it.”
When asked how a Fury fight would unfold, Zhang simply stated that it would end similarly to his rematch with Joyce, whom the 6-foot-6, 287-pound Zhang viciously knocked out with a right hook toward the end of the third round.
“Same thing,” Zhang replied.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.