Zhilei Zhang has taken his seat at the heavyweight top table following two successive victories over Joe Joyce, the latest being more conclusive than the first.
Following his contentious loss to Filip Hrgovic, ‘Big Bang’ stopped Joyce in April by causing damage to his eye. In the rematch this month, the Brit had the same problems in dealing with Zhang’s southpaw accuracy.
He was knocked down for the first time in his career in round three, and failed to make the count after the thudding shot. Zhang is now being mentioned with the very best in the world.
Former cruiserweight champion, Tony Bellew, told TalkSPORT he is in the ‘who need him’ club.
“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 went on to say that he would like to see ‘Big Bang’ in with Anthony Joshua.
“As a boxing fan, a great fight would be Zhang against Joshua, that would be brilliant.”
“I haven’t seen Zhang take one back off the likes of Joshua. You’ve got to look at the heavyweight division, the biggest puncher in the heavyweight division is Deontay Wilder.
I’ve got no problem in saying that, he’s the biggest puncher of his era. But Joshua is right on his coattails, right behind him as the second biggest puncher in the heavyweight division. I just think Joshua wallops Zhang, I mean it’s a shootout once again.”
He said that ‘AJ’ – who has taken some stick for his recent performances – is still on the rise at 33-years-old.
“I’m not sure Zhang is as athletic and as mobile as Joshua. Joshua is still evolving, he’s becoming a better fighter each and every time. People are going, ‘This style of Joshua…’, he’s under the new coach, he’s learning new things, he’s trying out new stuff.
“But at the same time, make no mistake, he’s still got the old Joshua, it’s just that no one has put it on him yet and made him have a fight. Zhang would, Wilder is going to do it and that’s when I think you’ll see and everyone will see Joshua at his best.
“When someone goes, ‘Right, I’m going to stick it on you now and give it to you’, that’s when I think you’ll see him bite down on his gumshield and fire back and if he did, I would tip him, I would tip Joshua to knock Zhang out.”
Since the second Joyce win, Zhang’s team have publicly said that they asked for the Joshua fight but that it was ‘swerved.’