Zhilei Zhang feels Oleksandr Usyk is too small for the heavyweight division.
Zhang doubled down on the statement as he expressed to ProBox TV that Usyk is also unproven in the heavyweight division.
The current WBO interim heavyweight champion best known as ‘Big Bang’ Zhang recently was in Lake Tahoe, Nevada in support of his managers, Terry and Tommy Lane, who were involved in the promotion of Efe Ajagba versus Joe Goodall. Zhang, who is the number-one contender for Oleksandr Usyk’s world title was a part of the ESPN+ telecast as he campaigns for a big fight next year. Though it will not be against Usyk, who is 36-years-old and Zhang's mandatory opponent for the world title, and to consolidate the titles at the heavyweight division for the WBO organization, that didn't stop Zhang from expressing how he truly feels about the three-belt champion, and former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
“[Usyk is] unproven,” Zhang told ProBox TV via a translator about the unified world champion Usyk. “When he fought [Anthony] Joshua, Joshua was on the decline, so I won’t think he is proven one way or another.”
“He has three belts, and that’s not something easy to do,” Zhang said. “He is moving up from a cruiserweight, and right now he is still a cruiserweight. So if we share the ring he is going to sleep early.”
“China needs this fight. It is beyond myself, the whole country needs a high-level sporting event, a professional boxing event like this. It [would] boast up the country's pride, and China is going to love it [if he could fight in China].”
Zhang, 40-years-old, is the elder statesman of the heavyweight division, but after two back-to-back stoppage wins over Joe Joyce, who was considered by some to be the boogeyman of the division, Zhang is playing the waiting game. Usyk and Tyson Fury are contractually locked up for two fights that could rule them out for facing Zhang in 2024 potentially. Anthony Joshua has taken a slew of unheralded opponents in 2023, but has been active meaning he could face Zhang and Wilder has been inactive for a whole year seemingly waiting on Anthony Joshua.
The sad trend with the heavyweight division over the past two years has been simple. Inactivity. Fury has taken three questionable fights over the past two years Usyk defeated Anthony Joshua twice, pursued a Fury fight, and had to make due with a title defense against Daniel Dubois to get a fight in 2023. The lack of movement amongst the champions has stagnated the division as a whole as it has had a trickle-down effect in which contenders are not fighting as often, thus we had at least one year in which very little has changed in the heavyweight division.
“There are big names, and big opportunities, but these guys got to fight each other,” said Terry Lane, the co-manager of Zhang about the state of the heavyweight division. “Unfortunately, you have Fury-Usyk tied up for God knows how long, because they have rematch clauses on both sides. [Will] we get a chance against one of them in the next year? It might take until 2025, we don’t know. Look we’re in a holding pattern, but he doesn’t want to wait. He is a fighter, he wants to fight. He wants to give the fans what they want as we [explore] plans B, C, and D now.