No sooner was Zhang Zhilei discussed as a future challenger to Anthony Joshua had the undefeated heavyweight failed to defeat also-ran Jerry Forrest.
Despite dropping Forrest three times, Zhilei failed his audition to be fast-tracked by promoter Matchroom for AJ, potentially.
In his report below, Eric Armit aired his views on the fight and likened Zhang to a ‘three-legged hippo.’
Forrest gets off the canvas three times in the first three rounds to fight his way to a majority draw against unbeaten Zhang.
In this clash of southpaws, Forrest made a confident start in the opener. He caught the slow Zhang with rights to the head, but with less than ten seconds remaining in the round, a short left hook deposited him on his rump.
He was up quickly, and Forrest did not look too shaken. Furthermore, the bell went before there could be any further action.
Forrest was giving away lots of height and reach to the 6’6” Chinese fighter. But was more mobile and had quicker hands.
Zhang had the power, and after twice shaking Forrest with lefts in the second, he landed a right hook to the temple, which saw Forrest tumble to the canvas on his back.
Forrest was up quickly and was willing to mix it with Zhang to the bell. It looked all over for Forrest as two rights to Zhang’s head just ten seconds into the third round turned his legs to rubber and sent him falling forwards to the canvas.
Forrest was able to continue after the count, and they both landed some heavy shots. Having survived three knockdowns and six points behind after just three rounds, Forrest had to work hard to get into the fight. He was able to use his slightly better mobility and quicker hands to claw back the lost points, and a clash of heads opened a vertical cut over the right eye of Zhang.
By the eighth, both fighters were so exhausted that it was a question of who would collapse first. Neither did, but Zhang had a point deducted in the ninth for leaning all over Forrest, which helped cancel out the Chinese fighter’s early advantage.
The scores 93-93 twice and 95-93 in favor of Forrest.
Losses to Jermaine Franklin and Carlos Takam had stymied Forrest’s progress. But with Zhang rated a very flattering No 8 by the WBO, it looks like a good result on paper for Forrest.
Zhang’s flaws are apparent, and this fight re-illustrated them. He is big and dangerous. But he’s about as agile as a three-legged hippo.
At 37, he has gone as far as he is going. Barring a lucky punch, that is.