WBO interim heavyweight champion Zhileli Zhang has re-affirmed his desire to face one of the heavyweight division’s premier fighters following back-to-back victories over 2016 Olympian Joe Joyce.
Zhang, speaking to the Metro newspaper, said that he wishes to face Anthony Joshua, with the pair having a history between themselves following their day as amateur boxers.
2012 Olympic champion and two-time former unified heavyweight champion Joshua holds a win over Zhang, defeating the Chinese heavyweight en route to securing Olympic gold in London.
Joshua has used 2023 to rebuild his career following back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021 and 2022, respectively, losing his unified titles and failing to recapture them against the Ukranian, losing both contests on points.
Joshua has fought twice in 2023 this year, firstly against Jermaine Franklin in April before returning in August against Robert Helenius, claiming a knockout win inside seven rounds.
Joshua and Matchroom Boxing had hoped to secure a long-awaited encounter with Deontay Wilder for the latter months of 2023. However, following talks between all parties with the Saudi promotional entity Skill Challenger Entertainment have seen negotiations collapse predominantly due to SCE needing help to deliver on their negotiations alongside the arrival of Turki Alalshikh as the lead figure of boxing within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Joshua has confirmed that he does wish to fight in December if the Deontay Wilder negotiations keep being protracted. No opponents have been confirmed. However, speculation has surrounded the likes of Agit Kabayel and Filip Hrgovic as possible opponents for Joshua if the negotiations, logistics and preparations are suitable for a return in December.
Zhang, who has thrown his name into the hat as a possible opponent, has insisted that Joshua is an option for him and if the Briton is seriously open to facing him, to send a contract..
“That is definitely an option for me,’ Zhang told Metro.co.uk. “You heard Anthony saying there are options out there, but is he serious? Send the contract over, and if everything looks good, I’ll sign it right away.”
Zhang continues to add that he is keeping an eye on the situation developing between WBC champion Tyson Fury and unified champion Usyk, with Zhang currently sitting as the mandatory challenger for Usyk courtesy of the WBO.
Fury and Usyk are now set to contest the undisputed heavyweight world championship, which will likely be held in early 2024. Speculation had been prominent that the contest would have occurred on the 23rd of December. That prospect now seems unlikely following comments from Frank Warren, who is seeking to push the contest back in 2024 following Fury’s fight with Francis Ngannou this past weekend.
Fury would suffer a third round knockdown en route to a scrappy and narrow points win over the former UFC heavyweight world champion in Saudi Arabia.
Zhang continued to add that he would wish to fight the likes of Fury, Usyk, Wilder and Joshua next but does concede that he is more than willing to fight the likes of Joseph Park, Daniel Dubois and Derek Chisora if none of his preferred names is willing to reciprocate Zhang’s wishlist.
“Right now, we’re still looking to see what happens with the unification because the unification overrides everything,” Zhang said.
“We’re still looking to see what happens with that. But with that done, and it’s out of the way, I will definitely exercise my mandatory challenger position.”
“The options are open and still out there. But for me and my team, we’re looking at the top names. We’re looking at Fury, Usyk, Joshua, Wilder. However, if those guys don’t want to accept my challenge or run away from me, that’s a different story. Then we go to boxers like Parker, Ortiz, Chisora, Dubois. Everything is possible, I’m not scared of fighting anyone. My target right now is for the bigger names.”