Zhilei Zhang very much put himself in the ‘who needs him club’ at the weekend with a brutal third-round win over Brit Joe Joyce, but Carl Froch thinks there is one heavyweight who would take on the challenge.
Zhang was impressive in his second back-to-back victory over Joe Joyce, who came in 25lbs heavier than for their first fight but still proved ineffective in the ring. He was cautious from the off, no doubt cautious of the Chinese fighter’s power which did so much damage to his eye the first time they met earlier in the year.
After a slow first round, Zhang began landing cleanly before ending the fight in the third with a smart straight southpaw left and heavy right hook combination that sent Joyce to the canvas hard.
In the immediate aftermath, he called out Tyson Fury but also retained his WBO mandatory challenger status to Oleksandr Usyk.
But speaking on his Froch on Fighting channel, ‘The Cobra’ said American former heavyweight champion, Deontay Wilder, would be only one ‘brave enough’ to take on the challenge.
“If it’s going to be 200 million [people watching] and it’s going to be over in China, I think Deontay Wilder is brave enough and good enough to take on that challenge and think he can win. He’s going to be confident he can knockout Zhang.”
Froch then assessed the likelihood of Zhang facing the other top men in the division.
“Usyk would fancy it but I don’t know if he’d entertain it. Fury maybe, maybe not, and I don’t think Eddie Hearn would risk Anthony Joshua against Zhilei Zhang. He deserves a shot at the WBO. At some stage, they’re going to have to fight him.”
At 41 years old, however, time is not on Zhang’s side so he will have to move fast if he is to make it to the top.