This past week we've seen the British press link unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight hopeful Zhang Zhilei (20-0, 16) [张志磊] to a potential bout with world champion Anthony Joshua. The talk is that the bout, a rematch of the 2012 Olympic Quarter-Final, would help Joshua raise his profile in China and the US.
Today we Zhang in the ring in China, in front of relative small audience at the Changsha social work college gymnasium, a venue a long way removed from Wembley where Joshua recently fought Alexander Povetkin, and a venue that looked half filled at best.
Despite being a million miles away from the glitz and glamour of a pay-per-view bout in Wembley Zhang did shine as he easily defended his WBO Oriental Heavyweight title, dismantling heavy handed American fighter Don Haynesworth (15-3-1, 13) in 3 one-sided rounds.
After a slow opening Zhang picked up the pace late in the opening round, with the crowd reacting and the two men fighting well after the bell which was hard to hear due to the crowd reactions. The second round saw Zhang pick up where he'd finished the second round and Haynesworth was essentially a human punching bag, taking a beating and throwing little in return. That continued in round 3 until the referee saved the American, who was taking bombs on the ropes and looked out on his feet.
From what we understand the plan now is for Zhang to fight in Monaco in November, on an Eddie Hearn show against an opponent of some name value. Whilst he looked impressive here we doubt the 6'6" southpaw would look particular good against anyone who is actually world class and stepping into the ring with Joshua in 2019 would certainly not end well.
If the belief is that Zhang is a big name in China it appears the fans in the country aren't aware of it. The small venue didn't fill, the bout wasn't streamed rather than aired on TV and the reality is that he gets less press time in China than "Dragon King" Zhang Junlong, another fighter who needs to step up. In an ideal world we'd get a mini-Asian Heavyweight tournament with Zhang, Junlong and Kyotaro all facing off to unify their various regional titles. Sadly though it seems all 3 are happy to fess inadequate opposition until they get a chance to fight for a huge pay day and a world title.
Tomorrow on CCTV5 we'll see unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight hopeful Zhang Zhilei (19-0, 15) [张志磊] defending his WBO Oriental Heavyweight title against heavy handed American fighter Don Haynesworth (15-2-1, 13).
Today the two men took part in their weigh in for the contest.
The unbeaten Chinese fighter his the scales at 258.2lbs which is lighter than he was last time out, when he blasted out Eugen Buchmueller in 63 seconds. Interestingly Zhilei has stopped his last 6 opponents in the opening round, and 7 of his last 8.
The American challenger, who was the shorter man, was heavier as he weighed in at 277.4lbs, which is marginally lighter than he was back in June against Hassan Lee. Despite being the heavier man he didn't look terrible on the scales.
Interestingly if Zhilei wins there is talk that he will be back in the ring in November in Monaco in a 10 round bout as he looks to move towards a potential world title shot.
Unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight hopeful Zhang Zhilei (19-0, 15) [张志磊] will return to the ring on September 28th in Changsha, China, as he looks make his first defense of the WBO Oriental Heavyweight title and continue a 6 fight run of opening round victories.
The 2008 Olympic Silver medal winner will be up against fellow puncher Don Haynesworth (15-2-1, 13), from New York, USA, who will be having his first bout outside of the US.
Zhilei comes into this bout following and impressive 8 fight stoppage run, but has got a lot of questions to answer in regards to his competition, and on paper this is a credible step up in class for "Big Bang".
Although no world beater Haynesworth is likely to be a good test to see how legitimate Zhilei is. To date Haynesworth has been stopped once, by the world class Bryant Jennings, and this bout will give Zhilei a chance to be compared with the former world title challenger.
Another excellent bout on this card will see China's Wulan Tuolehazi (8-3-1, 4) take on OPBF Flyweight champion Jayr Raquinel (10-0-1, 7) in a bout for the vacant WBC Silver Flyweight title. The 25 year old Tuolehazi lost 3 of his first 5, but has since gone 6-0-1 (4) with notable wins overs Noldi Manakane, Takeshi Kaneko, Kwanthai Sithmorseng and Yokthong KKP, showing that he has got something about him. Raquinel has also impressed, with recent wins in Japan over Keisuke Nakayama and Shun Kosaka, and is a legitimate puncher on the Oriental level. The winner of this one will find themselves pushed way up into the WBC rankings and will close in on a potential world title fight.
Fight fans in Florida last night had the chance to see Chinese Heavyweight hopeful Zhang Zhilei (16-0, 12) [张志磊] take on American local Curtis Harper (12-5, 8). On paper the bout was a step up for Zhilei in some ways, given that Harper had given former world title challenger Chris Arreola a good test last time out, but the reality was that few really expected "Big Bang" to be that tested that much.
Zhilei lived up to the pre-fight expectation of winning, and did so surprisingly quickly.
Harper came out looking anbitious and looked to land some big right hands but Zhile quickly began to read the attacks of Harper and counter them, landing his own more accurate stiff left hands with regularlity. Those left hands of the Chinese fighter seemed to make Harper more wary of unloading his own shots and the American 28 year old began to be backed up. On the back foot Harper looked like a man who knew he was out matched, but couldn't have foreseen the vicious assault from Zhilei that dropped him, almost sending him out of the ring.
Harper to his credit got back to his feet, but stumbled across the ring, forcing the hand of the referee, though he did looked clear headed only moments later, suggesting an early stoppage.
For Harper it was a third stoppage loss, with others coming to Yasmany Consuegra back on debut in 2010 and a 5th round loss to the then touted Gerald Washington. This was however his Harper's first bout in over 2 years and that likely worked against him here. As for Zhilei this was a third straight openign round stoppage this year and extends his current stoppage run to 5 straight wins.
Earlier today fight fans, worldwide, had the chance to tune into a Chinese stream on the Sina website. The card wasn't a huge one but it did feature 3 title bouts, all of which were won by Chinese fighters who may find themselves moving towards bigger and better fights later this year.
The highest profile of the bouts was a Heavyweight clash that saw Zhang Zhilei (14-0, 10) [张志磊] make light work of Australian Peter Graham (11-4-1, 5), and claim the WBO Oriental Heavyweight title. Graham had talked the talk before the bout but was down twice in the opening round, and stopped in the final seconds of the round.
Another unbeaten Chinese hopeful picking up a title was Meng Fanlong (10-0, 7) [孟繁龙], who easily saw off Gasan Gasanov (12-5-1, 10) to claim the WBO Oriental Light Heavyweight title. Gasanov had been in good form, winning his last 4 by stoppage, but failed to last even a round with Fanlong who needed just 112 seconds to score the stoppage. Sadly for the Russian this was his 5th stoppage loss, and it seems clear that he hasn't got the toughness to take a shot, despite having some decent power of his own.
The most interesting of the title bouts saw Wang Zhimin (8-1, 3) [王志敏] claim a wide decision win over Thai Patomsith Pathompothong (16-7, 6) [ปฐมสิทธิ์ เกษตรพัฒนา], to claim the WBO Oriental Super Lightweight title. Zhimin dropped the Thai in round 3 then went on to dominate the fight with the Thai failing to even claim a share of a round en route to a decision that saw Zhimin win with cards of 100-89, from all 3 judges.
(Image courtesy of Sina)
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