Sunday Convo: Zhilei Zhang delivers with a 'Big Bang'

Whenever you have two top-level heavyweights facing each other, there’s bound to be an explosion, and that’s precisely what we got last night at the Wembley Arena in London, U.K. Zhilei ‘Big Bang’ Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) scored a huge third-round knockout over Joe Joyce (15-2, 14 KOs) sending a clear message to the heavyweight division. Usually, the punches you don’t see coming have the most significant impact, and when Zhang landed a right hook in the middle of an exchange that Joyce didn’t see coming, his body shut down almost instantaneously. It was a tremendous shot, and even then, Joyce still tried to get up, but the referee knew better than to let that fight continue, which gave Zhang the knockout victory.

There was some big talk coming from the 40-year-old Zhang throughout fight week, with one of the quotes mentioning he would end Joyce’s career. Even with all that confidence, boxing fans, including the oddsmakers, weren’t sure which had this one close to 50/50 before the weigh-in. Friday came along, and when Joyce stepped on the scale and weighed twenty-five pounds heavier, the conversation shifted to what round would the knockout occur in. It was clear that Joyce packed on the weight to end this one early but in the end, it wouldn’t matter. 

Once the bell rang on Saturday night, Joyce showed promise in the first round with head movement and a pawing left jab. Joyce was moving away from Zhang’s left hand, making it a good chess move to start the fight. On the other hand, Zhang was thinking about how he would adjust to this and wasn’t active in the first round. But in the second, that’s when Zhang turned it up and started to land that big left hand as Joyce began to open up. Then Joyce started to do this weird thing where he would tilt his head to the right, giving Zhang more opportunity to land the big left hand. Once the third round began, Zhang almost instantaneously smelled blood in the water, and when Joyce tried opening up, he got caught by Zhang’s right hook, and it was all over. 


The future looks bright for Zhang, who is already well on his way to becoming a phenomenon in China. He was trending number six in China with 9.6 million views off of the weigh-in videos alone, per his translator Kurt's post on Friday night. The next step has to be to get the big fella a fight in China next year, whether against a voluntary opponent or one of the bigger names in the division. Zhang called out WBC champion Tyson Fury after the fight, but I don’t think Fury wants any part of Zhang, especially with last night’s performance. That fight would be interesting, or one with unified champion Oleksandr Usyk. Whichever way he decides to go, one thing is for sure: Zhang has a ton of momentum and is the hottest fighter in the division right now, which should help land him a big fight next year.