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BOXING

Francis Ngannou “not interested” in Zhilei Zhang fight

After stunning the boxing world by shooting into the top ten rankings, Francis Ngannou has reportedly been uninterested in making a fight with Zhilei Zhang.

Update:
Boxing - Zhilei Zhang v Joe Joyce - WBO Interim World Heavyweight Title - Wembley Arena, London, Britain - September 23, 2023 Zhilei Zhang celebrates winning his fight against Joe Joyce Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
ANDREW COULDRIDGEAction Images via Reuters

The next step for Francis Ngannou is a big one, perhaps the most important one of his career. Unlike the MMA world that Ngannou has dominated, in boxing the politics of getting a fight made is everything.

Francis Ngannou stormed into the boxing world’s consciousness with a granite performance against Tyson Fury that saw the Cameroonian drop the Gypsy King in a controversial split decision loss. The showing saw Ngannou shoot immediately into the WBC top ten rankings.

If he wants to seriously pursue a boxing career, his second showing must be equally as impressive. His choice of opponent will be of paramount importance.

Solid heavyweights to build experience against are out there, but choose one too lightly valued and your stock will slip. Bite off more than you can chew, however, and you could find yourself overmatched.

Part of the hype for Ngannou fighting Fury was the relatively high payday on offer in boxing versus MMA. It would seem that Ngannou would want to capitalize on that and strike another big money deal while the iron is hot.

Even if they were not already committed to other bouts, the likelihood of Ngannou landing a fight with Deontay Wilder or Anthony Joshua are virtually nil. Likewise their opponents, who are also top ten ranked heavyweights, Otto Wallin and Joseph Parker. Which makes Ngannou’s reported coolness on the idea of facing Zhilei Zhang all that much more strange.

Zhang said that the opportunity for the two to join the card in Saudi Arabia on December 23rd have been nixed by the Cameroonian. “Ngannou didn’t want to do it,” says Zhang. “And then it’s what you see. The big names started to come in like Joshua filling the card. And that’s what happened. I believe everyone is busy with their schedule but I’m someone that whoever you put in front of me, I’ll fight.”

At the age of 40, the Chinese banger is looking for a big money fight and at the number five ranked heavyweight, Zhang would have been a great matchup for Ngannou.

Perhaps Francis wants to work against a lower-ranked contender before jumping into the deep end. Perhaps a Joe Joyce or a Martin Bakole. But the opportunity to get on the card alongside Wilder and Joshua would have provided a nice payday and good exposure for Ngannou.

Of course, it is perhaps simply that Ngannou has no interest in pursuing a boxing career. MMA is after all his home turf. For whatever reason, however, it would appear that, for the time being at least, Francis Ngannou wants nothing to do with Big Bang Zhang. So much the worse for all of us fight fans.

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