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Eddie Hearn likens Deontay Wilder to Anthony Joshua following knockout loss to Zhilei Zhang

Zhilei Zhang knocked out Deontay Wilder in the fifth. Photo credit: Getty Images

Promoter Eddie Hearn isn’t ready to throw Deontay Wilder 43-4-1 (42) on the scrapheap just yet, despite the ex-WBC heavyweight champion suffering a devastating fifth-round knockout loss at the hands of Zhilei ‘Big Bang’ Zhang 27-1-1 (22) at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 1.

The 38-year-old American has now lost four of his last five bouts, including three by knockout. During this run, he has been knocked down no less than six times. His only victory since 2020 was a first-round knockout of Finnish fringe contender Robert Helenius.

But Hearn says he sees similarities to former two-time unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua 28-3 (25), who had to rebuild his career after back-to-back points losses to reigning undisputed champion Oleksandr Usyk 22-0 (14).

“The reaction that I saw from Wilder after the [Zhang] fight was similar to when AJ lost to Usyk in the second fight,” the Matchroom Boxing chief said to talkSPORT.

“It looked to me like a guy who had given everything in camp and just completely set his mind and focus on victory.

“It was frustration. Obviously AJ performed well against Usyk, but Deontay didn’t look himself.”

Wilder looked out of sorts against Chinese southpaw Zhang, 41, who outweighed him by 68-pounds. When it looked like there where shots to be had, Wilder simply couldn’t pull the trigger on his big right hand.

In the wake of his latest loss, there have been calls from some fans, pundits and even family members for Wilder to retire, but Hearn was reticent to join the chorus.

“The confidence to let his hands go is not there anymore – and that’s what made Wilder,” Hearn said.

“If you’re getting pushed back by Zhang and you’ve got the right hand cocked, you’ve got to let it go, and he couldn’t let it go.

“When he did, it didn’t look like it had the zip that it used to. I don’t think anyone has the right to say he should retire.

“But at the level you would expect he wants to box at, I don’t think he can perform there anymore.

“If he said, ‘I’m done’, I think that would be the right call. At a lower level, he could go on for another two or three years, but I don’t think that’s his motivation.”

Hearn added that there was no question Wilder had the desire to win, but his body was simply not responding the way he was expecting it to when put under fire.

“I know how much he wanted to win,” he said. “When I saw [his trainer] Malik Scott the next morning, he was saying, ‘We had a good camp and we were expecting it to happen for us’, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.

“When your time is up, your time is up.”