Zhilei Zhang pulled a major upset this Saturday night, and dedicates the victory to his country.
“Big Bang” delivered the big surprise by defeating Joe Joyce by TKO in the sixth round, who was positioned as the WBO mandatory challenger for Oleksandr Usyk’s world heavyweight title.
Courtesy of the win, the Chinese was crowned the new WBO interim heavyweight champion, and following the victory over his English opponent, Zhang insisted that he is going for the world title next.
“Today is mine,” Zhang said from the ring at the end of the fight, with a Chinese flag on his back. “Today it belongs to me, and it belongs to everyone who attended today. It belongs to all the Chinese fans who attended. I am 39 years old, but I am disciplined, I train hard, and the next step is to go for the (world) title.”
Zhilei Zhang wants world title shot, but it may not happen until 2024
While Zhang would be installed as the new mandatory title challenger to Usyk’s crown, the fight is unlikely to take place this year. Usyk, who in addition to the WBO belt also has the IBF and the WBA golds, must first fulfill the mandatory commitment of the WBA against the mandatory challenger Daniel Dubois. And, after Dubois, and if he wins, Usyk could face the WBC champion, Tyson Fury, at the end of the year to settle the undisputed heavyweight champion.
So, at least in 2023, it seems unlikely that Zhang will be able to lock horns with the unified champion, and on top of that, he will have to stay active in defending the interim title. But what Zhang has won is to give a gigantic media coup, and overnight, become an interesting candidate for any of the heavyweight contenders who fail to fight for the unified titles this year.