Zhilei Zhang, feeling more sidelined than a snowman in summer, quipped that he’s getting the cold shoulder again with the announcement of Anthony Joshua tangling with Francis Ngannou.
Zhang, now seemingly the heavyweight equivalent of a high school prom date – eagerly sought but cautiously avoided. Last year, he steamrolled over Joe Joyce, a boxer once wrapped in hype thicker than a winter coat. Facing off with the Brit, Zhang, China’s towering powerhouse, delivered performances so solid, they could’ve been carved from granite. With minimal scratches to show for it, he dismantled the once-unshakable Joyce, doing what no man in gloves had dared to dream – sending him packing before the final bell.
Post-victory, Zhang shouted out challenges to Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, yet his fight calendar remains as empty as a ghost town. Speaking to Boxing News, Zhang mused on Joshua’s choice to duke it out with Ngannou instead. “Can’t say I’m let down – it’s all personal preference. Joshua’s got his. Ngannou’s the new golden goose, right? Zero wins, one loss, and still the guy everyone wants a piece of. Boxing or business? That’s the million-dollar question.”
Zhang then pondered on his own chances against Joshua. “Honestly, I never saw that fight coming off the drawing board. If Joshua thinks his odds against me are worse than a coin flip, it’s a no-go. I bet it’s not even a 60-40 in his mind. Eddie Hearn, the puppet master, won’t risk his marionette in such a gamble.”
He continued, reflecting on the long-standing but unmaterialized Joshua fight. “Years ago, when I joined Matchroom, we chatted about it. My crew even jetted to London for talks. But here we are, years later, still just a pipe dream. They’re pros at sidestepping the tough fights.”
Zhang, ever confident, has vowed to be Joshua’s career curtain call if they ever clash. But with each passing day, that showdown seems more like a fable than a future headline. However, whispers in the wind suggest Zhang might share the marquee in March.