Team Zhang doubtful that a Joshua encounter can be agreed upon

Co-manager of heavyweight Zhilei Zhang is not holding high hopes of a heavyweight encounter with Anthony Joshua as Zhang is set to miss out on his preferred fight with Tyson Fury.

Zhang, who was in action last month in a rematch against Joe Joyce, initially claimed a stoppage victory in April and returned the same verdict in September at the OVO Arena, London.

Zhang would halt Joyce in three rounds and, post-fight, reiterated his preference to pursue a world title opportunity against WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.

However, Fury is next in action on October 28th against Francis Ngannou in an exhibition fight in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, over ten rounds. The most telling development with Fury is that he has now agreed and signed to face unified world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk next following his bout with Ngannou.

No date has been given for the undisputed heavyweight championship bout. Still, it is speculated that it will be held in late December/January 2024, with the bout also set to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

It is public knowledge that Zhang’s second choice opponent would be former unified world heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua. Joshua is keen to pursue an opportunity to face former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. However, that has not come to fruition following the Saudi promotional entity Skill Challenge Entertainment’s inability to agree and finance a deal between all relevant parties.

The promoter of Joshua, Eddie Hearn, has conceded that Joshua is likely to return in December before heading into a contest with Wilder, which in his opinion, is now expected to take place in ‘March-April.’

However, despite Zhang’s wishes to face Joshua, Terry Lane, co-manager of Zhang, believes neither Joshua or Hearn is interested in meeting the in-form Chinese heavyweight.

“Eddie knows,” Lane said on the YouTube channel of GFunky Boxing. “Put the contract in front of us. We’ll sign it right this second to fight AJ. We’ll sign it right this second.

“We could do it in China, we could do it in Saudi Arabia, we could do it in the UK, we have multiple options. The money’s there. This is what we want to do. I know their side—no matter what they say publicly—they want nothing to do with this fight. They want nothing to do with Zhang Zhilei. They’re so avoiding him, but listen, that’s the fight we want.”

Another potential factor of any fight being unable to take place is Zhang being signed to rival promoter Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions following his victory over Joyce in April.

Zhang currently has two fights remaining on his promotional deal with Warren, having previously been part of the Matchroom Boxing stable. Zhang ultimately became a free agent following his 2022 narrow and controversial defeat to Filip Hrgovic in August 2022.