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Will Zhilei Zhang challenge Usyk and Fury next?

Chinese boxer Zhilei Zhang defended the interim belt of the WBO world heavyweight champion after defeating the British Joe Joyce with a spectacular KO.

Zhilei Zhang WBO Interim World Heavyweight Title
ANDREW COULDRIDGEAction Images via Reuters

The main fight of the event took place at the packed London “OVO Arena Wembley.” After his triumph, 40-year-old Zhang confirmed that he is a significant factor at the top of the division and will essentially decide the outcome.

Currently, Ukrainian Alexander Usyk holds three big belts among the heavyweights. The fighter from Crimea defended his titles in August by defeating the British Daniel Dubois. On the other hand, the WBC belt is owned by Tyson Fury, who fights the former UFC champion Francis Nganou at the end of the year.

Joe Joyce getting knocked out against Zhilei Zhang
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Joe Joyce getting knocked out against Zhilei ZhangANDREW COULDRIDGEAction Images via Reuters

No one will underestimate Zhang, nicknamed “The Big Bang,” anymore. The boxer from Zhoukou, who has been living and working in Las Vegas for a long time, shocked the boxing world in April. As a vast outsider, he stopped the previously undefeated Briton Joyce by technical knockout. The doctor stopped the match because Joyce’s left eye was completely closed. Joyce was already seen as a new challenger to Tyson Fury, and a big revenge was expected from him.

However, Zhang picked up where he left off in April. After the first round, where there was almost no action, Zhang started with great combinations in the second round, with which he “broke” Joyce in the first fight. The left hand from the counterguard harassed Joyce, who tried to change his stance to move more, but in the end, there was no way out. In the third round, Zhang hit the Briton with a “thunderous” right hook from the counter, who was not even close to standing up after the ten seconds counted by the referee.

Despite Joyce’s attempts at a rematch, his tactics proved futile. Although he weighed as much as 127 kilograms against the Chinese, he was still the lighter fighter in the ring. On the other hand, Zhang weighed a little over 130 kilograms during the weigh-in, making it one of the heaviest fights in boxing history. Joyce tried to match Zhang’s strength, but it was useless to the former Olympic runner-up.

As of now, Zhang’s record stands at 26 wins (21 being KOs), one draw, and one defeat inflicted on him by Croatian fighter Filip Hrgović in 2022. Meanwhile, Joyce’s record is now 15-2, and his championship hopes at 38 are practically non-existent.