The Global Rise of Zhilei Zhang

Published on 4 June 2024 at 20:00

Zhilei Zhang has made a name for himself in the professional Boxing scene, arguably becoming China's best in the history of the sport. It wasn't until last year that Big Bang's career really kicked off, earning Interim World title glory as well as adding a few precious knockout wins to his name. Here is how Zhang has become such a big name of Heavyweight Boxing in recent time.

First Fight with Joe Joyce

After losing a professional Boxing bout for the first time in his career to Filip Hrgovic by unanimous decision in Jeddah, Zhang was given an ultimate opportunity of redemption. 

The Zhoukou-born fighter had the chance to become a World Heavyweight Champion when it was announced on February 2023 that he would be facing the undefeated Interim WBO World Heavyweight Champion, Joe Joyce, at the Copper Box Arena in Hackney Wick.

Joyce was becoming a big British prospect of Heavyweight Boxing, defeating 14 of his 15 opponents by knockout or TKO as he would rarely let a fight go to the judges scorecards. The Juggernaut would hold notable wins over Daniel Dubois on November 2020 and his recent title fight with Joseph Parker on September 2022.

In what would be an intriguing fight to watch, the bout would go six rounds before Zhang would earn title glory by TKO after an inspection from a ringside doctor saw that Joyce's right eye suffered too much damage. 

Zhang would become the first Chinese boxer to win a major title in the Heavyweight division, putting a big statement win on notice to all the top contenders and champions in the weight class. 

The Rematch at Wembley Arena

Five months later after their first bout, a rematch would take place as Joyce wanted revenge after not being able to end the fight on his terms since it would be stopped following an inspection from the ringside doctor.

Both men would weigh-in significantly higher going into their second fight. Zhang weighed in at 287.2lbs, which was nine pounds more compared to the first bout at the Copper Box Arena. Joyce would weigh-in at 281lbs, increasing his weight by 35 pounds from his last fight.

For the second time in his professional Boxing career, Zhang would be defending a Boxing title as a rematch win against Joyce would either see him take on another champion or a big name in Heavyweight Boxing.

The rematch would not go past the third round as after a powerful right hook to the head of Joyce, the Juggernaut would be counted as Zhang would celebrate his 21st knockout win at Wembley Arena. 

Many Boxing fans believed that Big Bang would be next in line to fight the unified world champion, Oleksandr Uysk, but that would not be the case as the possible future bout has not happened to this day.

Title loss in riyadh

The Henan-boxer would not take to the stage until March this year when he would feature in the Co-Main Event of the Joshua vs Ngannou fight, defending his WBO Interim World Heavyweight title against Joseph Parker.

Parker has previously been the WBO World Heavyweight Champion when won the vacant belt against former unified champion, Andy Ruiz, back in December 2016. He would soon go on to face Anthony Joshua for the unified world Heavyweight titles, but would lose by unanimous decision in Cardiff. 

With the fight taking place at the Kingdom Arena, it would seem slightly doubtful for Zhang as he had only fought once in Saudi Arabia when he lost to Filip Hrgovic. Parker had won his last two bouts in Riyadh with a third-round knockout win against Simon Kean and a surprising unanimous decision win over Deontay Wilder.

In a 12-round war, Parker would once again be victorious in Riyadh and would claim the Interim WBO World Heavyweight title as he landed more strikes against Big Bang, despite Zhang earning a knockdown in the third and eighth round.

After a majority decision loss, it would be a tough one to take for the Southpaw boxer as he would learn his lesson to be more active and land more strikes when he would next compete.

The Biggest win of his career

One month after his title loss, Zhang would fight once again in a surprising reveal against Deontay Wilder. The two would clash in the Co-Main Event as the undercard of Artur Beterbiev vs Dmitry Divol on June 1st, with both men looking for redemption after their previous loss to Joseph Parker. 

Wilder was the former WBC World Heavyweight Champion and would be seen as the most dangerous Heavyweight in Boxing when constantly stopped his opponents by knockout, defeating the likes of Luis Ortiz and Eric Molina. Wilder's reign of terror came to an end when he lost to Tyson Fury by seventh-round TKO at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, before losing the trilogy fight by knockout in the 11th round at the T-Mobile Arena.

Both men were in desperation for a victory as Zhang had not won since his rematch with Joe Joyce, while the Bronze Bomber had not been triumphant since October 2022 when he knocked out Robert Helenius in the first round.

With two devastating knockout artists going up against each other, it was clear that this fight would not go the distance. Zhang would land two wicked right-hand punches which would stun Wilder and send him to the ground as the Alabama-born boxer would gradually rise to his feet before stumbling towards the referee, leaving the referee no choice but to stop the fight.

This would arguably be Big Bang's greatest performance as not only would he get redemption for the second time in his career, but would force Wilder to retire from the sport after a brutal TKO win for the Chinese warrior.

When will we see Zhilei Zhang fight again and who will it be against? Do you believe Big Bang could defeat the current undisputed Heavyweight Champion, Oleksandr Usyk?


Written by Charlie Oxtoby


Instagram: charlie_oxtoby

MMA Instagram:

Twitter: Charlie_Oxtoby1

Add comment


There are no comments yet.