Zhilei Zhang has had perhaps the most impressive year in the heavyweight division, but is missing from the bill of a mega card in Saudi Arabia on December 23.
The fight night will have Anthony Joshua-Otto Wallin, Deontay Wilder-Joseph Parker, Daniel Dubois-Jarrell Miller and also includes world title defences from Dmitry Bivol and Jai Opetaia.
Zhang’s name – along with some others – raised eyebrows amongst fans given how in-form he is following two statement stoppages of Joe Joyce this year.
Promoter Frank Warren has recently revealed Zhang is injured, but before that he was supposed to fight on the card. In an interview with the Daily Mail, ‘Big Bang’ Zhang says he was in talks with one Francis Ngannou.
“There were originally talks to have me fight Ngannou [on December 23] and I was like, ‘Okay, it’s a walk in the park for me, I’ll take it.’
But Ngannou didn’t want to do it. And then it’s what you see. The big names started to come in like Joshua filling the card. And that’s what happened.”
Ngannou made his heavyweight boxing debut in October, knocking down Tyson Fury and taking him the distance, proving many predictions wrong in the process.
Despite the moral victory, Ngannou lost via split decision. He has since said he would like a rematch with Fury, and is expected in the meantime to return to mixed martial arts.
Zhang then said that fans could expect something big in 2024.
“I believe everyone is busy with their schedule but I’m someone that whoever you put in front of me, I’ll fight. It’s up to [my] team.
I think it’s coming [a big fight in China] in 2024, people will see something like that. People behind the scenes are working very hard, every day trying to push this and I believe in 2024 we will see a high level world title fight. Everyone is invited.
I have a strong feeling that something big is coming and I want everyone to stay tuned. If you’re watching my fight I’m not going to let you down.”
As WBO mandatory challenger, the heavyweight from China is front of the queue for a shot at the world title when all is said and done with Fury’s undisputed affair with Oleksandr Usyk.