Heavyweight juggernaut and 2012 rival is coming for AJ, eyes Birds Nest

Anthony Joshua Heavyweight

Mark Robinson

A Chinese juggernaut of a heavyweight has targeted a world title challenge against stablemate Anthony Joshua in the future.

Despite a large queue forming for an AJ shot, Zhilei Zhang believes a fight with the Briton in China would be a mammoth event.

But Zhang knows he needs to start ramping up his pursuit of world honors as he prepares to face top division also-ran Jerry Forrest.

On Saturday, February 27, the big-puncher features at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, live worldwide on DAZN (except Mexico) on the Canelo Alvarez undercard.

Now 22-0 with 17 KOs, Zhang celebrates the Chinese New Year today, but his celebrations are on hold.

The Olympic silver medal man wants to put on an impressive performance in front of a big audience, both live in the stadium and globally on DAZN.

Zhang is fighting on a Canelo undercard for the second time, having boxed in his sixth pro fight on the Mexican superstars’ card win over Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas in November 2015.

The 37-year-old also has previous with Joshua. The Londoner beating him in the quarter-finals of the 2012 Olympics en-route to winning gold.

Zhang would love to set the record straight in a blockbuster show in his home country.

Zhang Zhilei Zhang
Ed Mulholland

The Chinese giant knows that he has work to do to get such a showdown, though, and as he returns to action following a destructive KO win over Devin Vargas in Florida in November.

He knows the pressure to perform against fellow-heavyweight Forrest (26-4 20 KOs) is there. He needs to kick his 2021 off in style to get the ball rolling for his dream fight.

“I would love to fight AJ in China because of our amateur backgrounds,” said Zhang. “The venue is there. The Bird’s Nest holds 100,000, so we have it all.

“Beijing and Shanghai are the biggest cities, very economically developed and boxing in China is growing.

“The sports fans there like boxing, they like AJ, so if we can make it happen, it would be huge for boxing.”

HEAVYWEIGHT CHANCE

So when could Zhang possibly get his heavyweight chance?

Well, once a two-fight saga with Tyson Fury is in the books, late 2022 could open up. Provided the WBO doesn’t order Oleksandr Usyk’s chance to happen then, which seems more likely.

Deontay Wilder is number one with the WBC, and Trevor Bryan will also want his opportunity.

It’s a complicated situation.

On camp for his latest outing, Zhang added: “I took a week off after the last fight and was right back into the gym.

“Shaun George is a great trainer. He’s very professional and dedicated.

“Terry and Tommy Lane, my advisors are making things happen on their end. The whole team has made this camp great, and it’s gone so well.

“It was a good performance last time out. But we’ve seen what I can do better. In this camp, we’ve focused on that. We have also worked on becoming stronger, so I’m ready for Jerry.

“Jerry has a good record, and I respect him a lot. We’ve studied him and know all about him. I hope that when it comes to the fight, we put on a good show for the fans.”


CANELO BILL

Concluding on once again sharing a bill with the pound for pound king, he stated: “I’m excited to be on the same card as Canelo.

“He’s a fantastic fighter in the ring and a great businessman outside the ring.

“It’s a big plus, and it gives me the chance to showcase my skills to a huge audience and build to bigger fights later in the year.”

Zhang’s clash with Forrest is part of a massive night of action on the undercard of Canelo’s World title meeting with Yildirim.

Julio Cesar Martinez (17-1 13 KOs) provides the chief support. He defends his WBC World Flyweight title against mandatory challenger McWilliams Arroyo (20-4 15 KOs)

A host of young talents get the chance to shine on the card, including Diego Pacheco (10-0 8 KOs). Plus, Alexis Espino (6-0 4 KOs), Marc Castro (1-0 1 KO), and Aaron Aponte (1-0 1 KO).

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