One of the most interesting Chinese amateurs over the the last decade has been the highly accomplished and often fun to watch Zhang Zhilei.
Zhang, a Heavyweight from Henan, first came to international prominence back in 2004 when he claimed a bronze medal at the Asian Amateur Championships. Following on from that success Zhang added a silver at 2007 Asian Championships and a bronze at the World Championships in Chicago.
The World Championship medal should have put the world on alert as to how talented Zhang was but instead he turned into the surprise package of the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he claimed an Olympic silver medal. Some doubted the legitimacy of his Olympic medal, with the medal being won at home, though his prior achievements had given some legitimacy to his claim of being one of the best.
The success for Zhang continued with the Chinese Heavyweight claiming the gold medal at the Asian Championships and a second world amateur bronze medal in the AIBA World Boxing Championships, both in 2009.
Unfortunately Zhang failed medal in the 2012 Olympics in London, running in to eventual gold medallist Anthony Joshua in the quarter final. Despite this set back he has remained a fixture on the amateur scene and many had wondered whether Zhang was going to remain amateur or follow fellow Chinese amateur star Zou Shiming.
Thankfully Zhang has decided to turn to the professional ranks and yesterday he was announced as the newest signing by Lou Duva's "Dynasty Boxing".
Although the signing is a huge one in regards to Asian boxing it also seems to be one that Duva feels is a massive signing for Heavyweight boxing. In fact Duva was quoted as saying "He's the most important Heavyweight to come along since the Klitschko brothers" huge praise indeed for the 6'6" Chinese fighter who could light the fire under the Chinese boxing market even more so than Shining.
It's expected that Zhang will make his professional debut in May or June with either the US or China being the likely venue. Whilst details are scarce it's hoped that he'll be busy between now and the end of the year.
Whilst we hope that Zhang will be a success as a professional his new promoters seems confident of success. He has already praised Zhang's style, which is more professional than that of Shiming, looks, charisma, personality and athleticism and seems almost sure that Zhang can be the man to revolutionise the growing Chinese boxing market.
(Photo of Zhang with Evander Holyfield is courtesy of Teddy B Blackburn and Lou Duva)
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