Paulie Malignaggi says WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury will not fight Zhilei Zhang despite being called out by him last Saturday night after his third round knockout win over Joe Joyce in London.
Malignaggi says Zhang’s best bet for a title shot is against IBF, WBA & WBO champion Oleksandr Usyk. Zhang is the WBO interim champ, so he should get a title shot next year, but he’ll have to wait until Usyk faces his IBF mandatory Filip Hrgovic first. He’ll then face the winner.
Zhang would like to face Fury, but that doesn’t appear likely to happen.
Fury has already said he wants to do cage matches against Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou, and he’ll likely be paid well by the Saudis for him to do so. The WBC title that Fury holds now is a good promotional prop.
Malignaggi states that Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) is making too much money fighting “MMA rejects” for him to face the hard-hitting Zhang.
The Saudis are paying the 35-year-old Fury a boatload of dough to face former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou on October 28th in a fight on TNT Sports & ESPN+ PPV in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Fury hasn’t shown interest in fighting a quality since he was forced to face Deontay Wilder in 2021. Since that fight, Tyson has gone in a different direction from taking the fights that the fans want by facing Dillian Whyte & Derek Chisora.
“Zhilei Zhang, big knockout win. Where does he go now?
People are going to say, ‘Oh, he should fight Fury now. He’s got his name now in England with two wins over Joyce.’ I agree. The only thing is I don’t see Fury coming back against guys like Zhang,” said Paulie Malignaggi on his social platform.
“If anything, maybe you’ll see Fury against Usyk, but I don’t even know if you’ll see that at this point because he’s making more money knocking out MMA rejects than anything else.
“That’s not any disrespect to Francis Ngannou, who was an excellent MMA fighter, but he can’t get the money in MMA that he can in boxing.”
What should happen is for the World Boxing Council to strip Fury of his WBC title, but that does not seem likely. A year hasn’t gone by yet since Fury’s title defense against journeyman Dereck Chisora, and he still has time before his next defense is due.
If Fury’s mandatory challenger is the Deontay Wilder vs. Anthony Joshua winner, he’ll vacate or have the belt stripped. Fury has been out of circulation for so long and isn’t the same fighter physically that beat Wilder in 2020 & 2021.
He’s gotten old & fat, and the mauling tactics that he used to beat Deontay might not work. Age has done a number on Fury, and he’s not going to reverse that process.
“So, it creates a situation for Fury to go get more money fighting him than he does fighting Usyk, and that’s and that the thing that’s the problem now,” said Malignaggi.
“If Fury is getting this kind of easy money, you’re not going to see him taking on contenders like Zhang. Maybe with the reward the Usyk fight brings, which is the unified heavyweight championship in the world, maybe Usyk, but honestly, I don’t see that happening.
“So I think the best case scenario for Usyk to get a big
fight here to get a competitive fight here, it might be Zhang. Zhang already is the interim WBO Champion, to begin with. Now, the WBO makes interim titles.
“I don’t even realize they started doing that too. You have a legitimate chance to make Usyk and Zhang. You know what? Why not do it in England? Usyk has fought in England, and Joyce has fought in England. I think they should just do that fight in England.
“I think Hearn has Usyk anyway. Honestly, personally, I think it would be a big fight in England now that both guys have a big status on the world stage. Both guys have big wins in England.
“I know Usyk was a while ago when he beat Tony Bellew, but Zhang coming off two wins in a row, beating Joe Joyce. He’s on a big momentum. Let’s make Usyk and Zhang, and let’s do it in the UK for all those great fans,” said Malignaggi.