After more than a year out of the ring we had the chance to see unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (21-0, 16) [张志磊] make his European debut, as he battled late replacement Andriy Rudenko (32-5, 20), from Ukraine, in Monaco.
On paper this was a bout that didn't really get the juices flowing, but did get the mind thinking. What was Zhang going to be like after such a long lay off? Could Rudenko be getting over-looked? Would Zhang be wanting to put on a show for the fans?
From the first round it was clear that Zhang wasn't suffering from any form of ring rust, and although took the fight at short notice he was there to win, but was struggling with the size and speed of Zhang.
Sadly though the Chinese fighter seemed to stutter between second and third through out the fight. He showed flashes of brilliance, but they were merely a combination here, or a counter there, rather than anything sustained. He lacked any sense of urgency or intensity and was instead happy to just cruise. Rudenko on the other hand came to fight, he pressed, he threw, he missed and he pressed more.
To his credit Rudenko was there to win through out, and despite being hurt and staggered a number of times he recovered swiftly, helped in part by Zhang not moving through the gears.
After 10 rounds there was no arguing with who won, though Rudenko certainly did enough to claim a few rounds and the scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93 were all pretty spot on, but there was a feeling that Zhang could, and should, have done so much more.
With the win Zhang is back, but he needs 2 or 3 more fights to find out if he has that intensity inside him, before chasing a world title fight. Talent wise he's very, very, good, but the lack of fire and work rate here were massively disappointing for a man who was being given a huge opportunity.
On Saturday night in Monaco we'll see unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (20-0, 16) [张志磊] battle against rugged Ukrainian veteran Andriy Rudenko (32-4, 20). Although not a huge bout it looks like a really good match up on paper, especially given that it was put together on short notice after Sergiy Kuzmin was forced out of a bout with Zhilei.
Yesterday the two men weighed in for the fight.
On the scales the 6'6" Chinese southpaw weighed in at 278lbs, a career heaviest. Given this is his first bout in well over a year we admit we expected him to be in better shape, and not the fleshy fighter he was at the weigh in. It wasn't that he looked bad, but he didn't look particularly good either and not like a man wanting to make a statement in a division he has described as being wide open.
Rudenko, who again took the bout at short notice, was 244lbs. That is the heaviest he's been since a 2013 clash with Adnan Buharalija. Despite taking the bout on short notice he looked in pretty good shape, and it's clear he'll be in the ring looking to over-come the unbeaten Chinese man, and score a career best win.
This coming weekend we'll Chinese Heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (20-0, 16) [张志磊] battle against rugged Ukrainian veteran Andriy Rudenko (32-4, 20) from Monte Carlo, in what looks like a very clear step for the unbeaten man.
Despite this being his highest profile bout to date Zhilei is a very, very, clear betting favourite. In fact the best price available, in the UK at least, on Zhilei to win is a paltry 1/12. A win for Rudenko however is a huge 7/1 whilst the draw is available as high as 33/1.
Given how the bookies see this as a total mismatch in terms of who will win, the more interesting market is the "Method of Victory". A decision win for Zhilei is 8/13, and looks to be the logical outcome given the fact that Rudenko, as limited as he is, is incredibly tough and has never been stopped. A stoppage for Zhang is available at 2/1, and that looks to be the value bet for Zhang backers.
Rudenko on the other hand is 12/1 to win by stoppage and a huge 22/1 to win a decision. Given he took the bout on short notice it's understandable that he's such a huge under-dog, but he is very much a step up for Zhilei, who hasn't fought in well over a year.
Press release - HEAVYWEIGHT ZHANG ZHILEI RETURNS TO THE RING AGAINST ANDRIY RUDENKO IN MONACO, GOAL REMAINS BECOMING FIRST CHINESE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
November 25th, Monte Carlo -- Top boxing heavyweight, Zhang Zhilei 20-0, 16 KOs), returns to the ring against Ukraine’s Andriy Rudenko (32-4, 20 KOs) this Saturday, November 30, at the Casino De Monte Carlo, Monte Carlo, Monaco. The bout is scheduled for10 rounds.
Only a short time ago, Zhang was ranked in the top ten of the heavyweight division until unexpected circumstances kept him out of the ring for over a year. A win over the veteran Rudenko, who has scored as many knockouts as Zhang has wins, could put the former Olympic silver medalist right back at the top of the division.
“I can’t wait to get back in the ring.” says Zhang. “I’ve had an excellent training camp and am ready. I am very confident. I want to make ring history as China's first ever world heavyweight champion so every bout is crucial."
“Boxing fans will pay attention to this fight because they know it has enormous implications.” says Zhang advisor Tommy Lane. “A Zhilei win puts him back in the top of the division - which means monster fights for him.”
Zhang vs. Rudenko is one of many world-class bouts presented by Matchroom Boxing, and can be streamed in the United States on DAZN - Nov 30th Noon ET.
*Image - Zhang Zhilei*
ABOUT ZHANG ZHILEI
Zhang Zhilei is a Chinese, undefeated, professional boxer who competes in the heavyweight division. As an amateur, he earned a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games as a super heavyweight. He now competes at the highest levels of professional heavyweight prize fighting.
ABOUT LANE BROTHERS BOXING
New York City Based “Lane Brothers Boxing” was founded in 2019 by brothers Terry and Tommy Lane. The Lane brothers have worked in professional boxing for nearly fifteen years, and are now using their industry expertise to advise top international boxing talent. Terry and Tommy are the sons of former referee Mills Lane.
At the end of November it was hoped we'd see unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (20-0, 16) [张志磊] battle against the once beaten Sergey Kuzmin (15-1, 11) in Monte Carlo. Sadly that bout is now off, with Kuzmin being forced out of the contest with an injury.
Instead of facing the once touted Kuzmin we'll instead see Zhilei in action against rugged Ukrainian veteran Andriy Rudenko (32-4, 20).
On paper this is less attractive than the originally scheduled bout but in reality this is arguably a better bout with Rudenko a lot more proven than Kuzmin, and a proven tough guy. That's not to say Kuzmin Vs Zhilei wouldn't have been a better bout, that Rudenko is certainly not an awful opponent, especially on such short notice.
During his 36 fight career Rudenko has taken the likes of Lucas Browne, Alexander Povetkin and Agit Kabayel and has never been stopped. If Zhilei stops him it would be a statement. By the same token Rudenko will be there to win, as Kuzmin would, and should push the Chinese fighter all the way.
As far as late replacements go this could have been a lot worse.
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