Zhilei Zhang Calls Out Anthony Joshua Ahead Of Fight With Joseph Parker

February 23, 2024
2 months
Zhilei Zhang

Chinese heavyweight Zhilei Zhang has said he wants to face Anthony Joshua in his next fight after he has taken care of business against Joseph Parker next month.

Zhang puts his WBO interim heavyweight title on the line when he takes on former world champion Parker on March 8 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Their fight will be the chief support to Joshua’s showdown with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou.

Zhang (26-1-1 21 KO) became a legitimate contender in 2023 after back-to-back stoppage victories over British fighter Joe Joyce. He faces an entirely different challenge against the smaller, more athletic Parker, who is coming off an excellent win over Deontay Wilder, albeit a version of the former WBC world champion who looked nothing like his fearsome best.

Zhang, who has only gone the full 12 rounds once in his career which he lost to Filip Hrgovic, recently revealed that he has been working on his endurance in order to stay the course if needed against Parker.

Confident he will successfully retain his title and put himself in the frame for even bigger fights, ‘Big Bang’ is already looking ahead for his next opponent, and has set his sights on the two-time world champion.  

“You have to ask Eddie [Hearn] if he wants to put Joshua against me, but I do want to make it happen,” Zhang, 40, said in an interview with iFL TV.

Joshua and Zhang will have a front-row view of each other’s fights, and while the Chinese contender claims ‘AJ’ is the heavy favorite against Ngannou, he has warned of the need to respect the Cameroonian’s power.

Joshua Has ‘Upper Hand’ Against Ngannou

“I think when you look at Francis Ngannou, he’s a novice. Obviously, he is a novice in professional boxing. But he did really well against Tyson Fury,” he said. “Everybody could see that. So, in terms of boxing skill and boxing experience, I think Joshua definitely has the upper hand. There’s no question about that.

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“However, Ngannou has the power, he has the chin. And, we’re talking about heavyweight boxing. There are so many things that could happen within one split second. Let’s say, one punch can even change the whole fight.”

As for his bout with Parker, Zhang said he is taking plenty of confidence from their respective performances against Joyce. Before Zhang had knocked out the ‘Juggernaut’ – firstly in the sixth round last April and then in the third six months later – Parker was stopped in the 11th round by Joyce in September 2022.

Unsurprisingly, Zhang has analysed Parker’s fight and given their similar skillsets as bigger, slower, powerful boxers, he will take plenty of encouragement from Joyce’s strategy.

“I thought Joyce was controlling the fight from round one to round 11, and Joyce gave Parker a lot of pressure. I could see Parker landed multiple shots on Joe Joyce, but he didn’t do the damage he wished,” Zhang said. “[My] two victories [over Joyce] boosted my confidence, and I’m really confident going into the Parker fight.”

Zhang On Fury Vs Usyk

Zhang also offered his thoughts on the upcoming showdown between Fury and Oleksandr Usyk. The first undisputed heavyweight title fight of the four-belt era has been pushed back twice, first from December 23 and again when rescheduled for February 17.

Fury Usyk
Fury Usyk

The first delay was because of Fury’s tougher-than-expected bout with boxing novice Ngannou, who pushed the WBC and lineal champion to a split decision after knocking him down in the third round. The second delay came after Fury suffered a cut in sparring just weeks before the bout.

There have been accusations leveled at Fury for not training hard enough, with some reports even claiming that the ‘Gypsy King’ was getting regularly dropped in sparring. After announcing he had been cut above the eye and needed to postpone the fight again, Fury received plenty of doubt about the timing of the cut. Carl Froch and George Groves, two former super-middleweight world champions, doubted whether the fight would ever go ahead.

“With Tyson Fury, he runs his mouth, he changes up. I’m not saying he produced the cut himself, but there are so many variables going towards that May 18th fight, and anything can happen,” Zhang said.

“I think it depends on how he prepares for the fight. If he’s disciplined, he has the leverage, and this is an undisputed fight that everyone wants to see in the heavyweight division. I really do hope he trains hard and pays attention to details.”