Zhilei Zhang is riding high off the back of an excellent 2023 in the heavyweight division, and he has his eye on the next target.
‘Big Bang’ forced a doctor’s stoppage in his first bout with Joe Joyce this year, handing the Brit his first loss and upsetting the odds.
Joyce bravely took an immediate rematch, and was dispatched in half the time from a brutal right hook that sent him crashing to the canvas and shattered his aura of invincibility.
With those two wins, Zhang holds the WBO Interim World Title and at the front of the queue to face Oleksandr Usyk in a mandatory defence.
Unfortunately for the 40-year-old southpaw, Usyk has plans with WBC Champion Tyson Fury to fight and crown an undisputed champion.
The rematch clause in the contract means Zhang will likely have to wait it out to face the winner or compete for the belt if it becomes vacant.
He’s made it clear that he will be taking no easy fights in the meantime, and told FightHype.com that two-time world champion Anthony Joshua is on his list.
Asked how that fight would go, he had one word, spoken in English.
That knockout warning won’t be taken lightly given Zhang has 21 stoppages from 26 wins.
The two heavyweights have history dating back to the London Olympic Games in 2012 – a quarter-final bout. Joshua came off better in a second round exchange, countering Zhang with a well-timed right hand and sending him to the canvas.
Zhang would later say that Joshua ‘ran away’ during the third round on his way to a 15-11 points decision – something he has accused him of doing in the pro game too.
For now, ‘AJ’ has a tough test in Otto Wallin, a win likely setting up a fight with Deontay Wilder but also opening the door to a potential world title shot.