Zhilei Zhang NYC Press Conference

Zhilei Nyc Presser

Zhilei Zhang, the WBO interim heavyweight champion, met with Chinese media representatives in New York City to discuss his upcoming title defense against former champion Joe Joyce. Wednesday’s event was held at Peter Song’s Kung Fu Kitchen in Times Square. Zhang vs. Joyce, a rematch, is scheduled for September 23rd in Joyce’s hometown of London at the Wembley Arena, with ESPN+ broadcasting live in the US, Douyin in China and TNT Sports in the UK.

Zhang gave a brief update on his training camp, saying, “People say Joyce is so active and hits hard, but when it comes to sparring, I am working with Alonzo Neal, who throws more punches than Joyce, Dmytro Bezus who hits harder than Joyce, and Mariusz Wach, who is 300 pounds and bigger than Joyce.” Neal is a 2023 National Golden Gloves finalist, Bezus is a 10-1 professional and Wach is a well-respected veteran who challenged former champion Wladimir Klitschko and has shared the ring with contenders Jarrell Miller, Alexander Povetkin, Martin Bakole, Dillian Whyte and Hughie Fury.

Zhang seized the WBO interim title in April by stopping the previously unbeaten Joyce in round six. Zhang had hoped to move on to challenge WBC champion Tyson Fury next, but Joyce dashed that dream, at least temporarily, by exercising his contractual right to a rematch. But Zhang did not seem disturbed by having to grant Joyce a rematch. “I already created history on April 15th in London,” the 6’6” southpaw said. “I don’t mind doing it again on September 23rd.”

At Zhang’s side was his trainer, former light heavyweight and cruiserweight Shaun George. Perhaps referring to the 40-year-old Zhilei’s age, George added, “Camp is going great. We are not moving too fast and not moving too slow. But on September 23rd, Zhilei is going to be a savage. It doesn’t matter what Joe Joyce comes to the rematch with, we are going to be prepared to adjust to him.”

Zhang was also asked about last weekend’s three-belt heavyweight title fight that saw Oleksandr Usyk retain his titles against another British fighter, Daniel Dubois. The win came with some controversy, with Dubois claiming he deserved a knockout victory due to a borderline punch that floored Usyk but was ruled to be a low blow by the referee, a call that gave Usyk time to recover and eventually stop Dubois. Zhang was more sympathetic to Usyk than Dubois, commenting, “I watched the fight and that punch was a little bit low. It landed below Usyk’s navel. After the fight resumed, Dubois did not use his physical advantages and Usyk was able to regain his rhythm. Dubois basically quit. I think Dubois needs to work on his heart.”

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  • I really wish they would’nt refer to him as interim champion. He’s #1 contender & that’s that!!….

  • hopefully Zhang does well. shame on Joyce for holding up the heavyweight division with this too soooon rematch

  • 1000000000000% it will be the same result. Maybe worse. I picked Zhang as the winner in the first fight and I’m picking him again. I’ve never seen the appeal in Joyce. He’s just not that good. C level fighter for sure. As far as I’m concerned he has little to no chance in the rematch.

  • Dubois can impose his size and bully any opponent that doesn’t fight back. Most British heavyweights dont show that dog we like to see in a heavyweight contender. Not hungry enough for tough situations. Dubois quits when the goings get hard. A Chinese heavyweight champion would be an interesting change.

    • Zhang is too damn old – he is no George Foreman . It is shame Zhang did not turn pro sooner – even if he wins I doubt Zhang gets a title shot in 2024

  • Recon this is going to be a hard fought rematch, a tough fight and difficult to predict. A person has to wonder what would have happened if Joyce’s eye did not bruise and swell up so badly, but Zhang was putting the hurt on Joyce and can do so again.

    • Zhang could not miss with the straight left. Joyce will be more cautious so the rematch will not be as exciting.

  • “due to a borderline punch that floored Usyk but was ruled to be a low blow”

    Quit repeating the lies! Look at the closeup photos. If that isn’t a low blow I don’t know what is!

    • Hotel Dixie, yes, how people are wanting to see that low blow as a clean shot is ridicules. All Duboise’s other punches did nothing, but this one foul they want to see as a good punch.

    • Unfortunately, there is no single angle of photo or video that can be taken as gospel. Looks low in some, not in many others.

  • I met Zhang when he was an amateur in Atlantic City, New Jersey when Dino Duva was involved with him.

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