Zhilei Zhang prefers Usyk title shot over Joe Joyce rematch

04/25/2023 - By Michael Collins - Comments

Newly crowned WBO interim heavyweight champion Zhilei Zhang would like to challenge IBF/WBA/WBO champ Oleksandr Usyk next.

However, Joe ‘The Juggernaut’ Joyce wants an immediate rematch with Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) to avenge his sixth round stoppage loss earlier this month on April 15th.

The two-time Olympian Zhang is willing to accommodate Joyce, but he’d like for the fight to take place in China, where it can be seen by many of his fans.

It’s unclear how serious Joyce (15-1, 14 KOs) is in taking the immediate rematch because, with the way he was dominated by the southpaw Zhang in every round of the fight, little will change in a second fight. If anything, it’ll be a continuation of the first match with Zhilei continuing to bang ‘The Juggernaut’ like a drum and puffing up his right eye again.

If Joyce can make a deal to fight Zhang at a later date, that would be beneficial potentially to both. Zhang could then face either Usyk or possibly WBC champion Tyson Fury in the summer, while Joyce rebuilds his career fighting someone that he matches up better against like Martin Bakole or Filip Hrgovic.

Zhang and Andy Ruiz Jr are in the running for Fury’s tune-up fight on July 22nd. Ruiz will probably get the job, but if it’s Zhang, it’s a big opportunity for him to capture the WBC title against a fighter that has shown to have a chin issue.

“[Joyce] has asked for the rematch, date, and location,” said Zhilei Zhang to CGTN Europe. “I don’t mind about the when and the where. Of course, it would be better if it could happen in China so that Chinese boxing fans can see a heavyweight championship fight.

“Now I can challenge Usyk [as WBO interim & mandatory,] so my next plan is to fight against him. My team has been talking with Usyk’s team about a date and venue of the competition,” said Zhang.

“We prepared well in the training camps prior to the bout, but Joyce is a very strong fighter. So we thought about the worst scenario, which was I could lose. We thought that Joyce could KO me, or I could KO him.

“It was a surprise to me and my team when I TKO’d him in the sixth round because we thought this was going to happen in the eighth or the tenth round.

“We never thought it was going to come that early in the fight. He kept pushing after the third and fourth, and I was able to fight against that pressure and win,” said Zhang about ‘The Juggernaut’ Joyce.

“My coach talked about that with me and told me that most of the crowd at the venue would probably be Joyce fans. So they might boo me as I entered the ring. He warned me about this, and my response was, ‘That’ fine.’ We used this as motivation.

“On the day of the fight, there were some Chinese fans, and when I was on the way, I noticed that the majority of the fans that were cheering for my victory were Chinese, while the rest of the crowd was silent. So I think it’s important to have a good mentality to turn an away match into a home match,” said Zhang.

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