Home Boxing News Zhilei Zhang will be avoided, says former world champion

Zhilei Zhang will be avoided, says former world champion

Zhilei Zhang. Photo credit: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

Tony Bellew believes Zhilei ‘Big Bang’ Zhang 26-1-1 (21) is so dangerous that eh will be avoided by the big names at heavyweight.

The 40-year-old Chinese southpaw wiped out fellow contender Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce 15-2 (14) for a second time last weekend, knocking him out with a precision right hook at Wembley Arena in London, England on Saturday night.

The victory came five months after Zhang scored a breakthrough win over Joyce when he pulverised the 38-year-old Brit’s right eye so severely that the fight was stopped in the sixth.

Those back-to-back wins came after Zhang came up marginally short against current IBF number one contender Filip ‘El Animal’ Hrgovic 16-0 (13) in August last year.

The decision went to the 31-year-old Croatian by scores of 114-113 and 115-112 twice, but many fans and pundits thought Zhang deserved the nod.

On current form Zhang is clearly a top five heavyweight, but don’t expect WBA, WBO and IBF champion Oleksandr Usyk 21-0 (14) or WBC titleholder Tyson Fury 33-0-1 (24) to be in any hurry to face him.

Former WBC 200-pound champion Bellew, who retired five years ago after being knocked out in eight frames by Usyk in a cruiserweight bout, expects Zhang to be avoided.

“He’s dangerous isn’t he? No one is going to want to touch him with a barge pole… listen, the likes of Usyk will just go, ‘What do I want him for? I’m not touching him, it doesn’t do anything for me’,” Bellew said to talkSPORT.

“Now, this will be a little bit of a catch-22 position because he should be an undefeated fighter. I thought he’d beat Filip Hrgovic, I really do, I like Hrgovic he’s a good fighter but I thought he lost to Zhang but he just didn’t get it.

“Now, if Zhang was an undefeated fighter, it’s a more attractive opposition to the other heavyweights out there because they’d be like, ‘I want to put a dent in him and be the first to beat him’. Because he’s now got a loss on his record, even though it’s not a proper loss, fighters will go, ‘Well listen if I beat him, everyone will say it’s because I’m supposed to, Hrgovic has already beaten him’. So he’s not an attractive option.”

Ukrainian southpaw Usyk is expected to face Hrgovic next while Fury will face boxing debutant and former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in a 10-round non-title bout in Saudi Arabia on October 28.

“I think Tyson Fury would beat him hands down, I think Fury beats almost everyone in the world barring Usyk,” Bellew said. “I just think Fury is so good but at the same time, there’s nothing to win by facing Zhang. He’s not a world champion, he’s not undefeated and he’s super dangerous.

“He can wallop with either hand. It’s just not someone you take on, I’m talking from a boxing business perspective, I’m not talking as a boxing fan. As a boxing fan, a great fight would be Zhang against [Anthony] Joshua, that would be brilliant.”