Heavyweight boxing can be weird at times, and it certainly was this evening on DAZN as we saw 37 year old Chinese fighter Zhang Zhilei (22-0-1, 17) [张志磊] barely escape with a draw, despite dropping Jerry Forrest (26-4-1, 20) in each of the first 3 rounds!
Forrest, a very clear under-dog, looked under-sized from the off, but of course it's the fight in the dog that matters, not the size of the dog in the fight. Despite being dwarfed by the Chinese giant Forrest started well, and seemed to win the first 2 minutes 50 seconds of the bout, before being dropped at the end of the round. The knockdown secured Zhang his first 10-8 round of the fight. That was followed by another in round 2, as he dropped Forrest a second time, and again in round 3.
It seemed, through all 3 rounds, that Forrest was the much better boxer. He was the one landing far more shots, he was the one dictating the action, but he was also the one being hurt, if not dropped, pretty much every time he was tagged. It seemed like it was inevitable that he would be stopped. But then things started to change. Suddenly the 37 year old body of Zhang began to look a lot, lot older than it was. He began to struggle with everything. He was starting to do less and lesser and from round 5 onwards it was almost impossible to give Zhang anything. He was holding, spoiling, looking exhausted, out on his fight and stumbling around the ring like a man who needed to lean on Forrest to just stay up right.
Round, after round, after round, Zhang held, held and held some more. He had gone from being able to hurt Forrest every time he landed, to being unable to throw punches and unable to much at all. His only saving grace was Forrest's relative lack of power, though Forrest did manage to shake Zhang late on. Zhang had been ground down and was mentally crumbling, with things getting worse courtesy of a cut, from an accidental headclash in round 8, and then a point being taken for holding in round 9. A point that could have been taken much, much earlier in the bout.
Thankfully for Zhang this was only a 10 rounder, though in fairness he barely survived the final 3 minutes. He was spent, and seemed on the verge of being stopped as we got the bell. A bell that, ultimately, saved him from a loss and helped him salvage a draw. A draw that, in fairness he didn't really deserve.
After 10 rounds the scores were read out, with one judge having Forrest the winner 95-93, and the other two judges having the bout 93-93, giving us a majority draw.
Sadly for Zhang, and Eddie Hearn, this performance almost certainly kills the long rumoured bout between Zhang and Anthony Joshua at the Bird's Nest in China. The Chinese Heavyweight giant has never been a "star" in China, where he has fought just 4 times as a professional, and now, aged 37 and on the back of this performance, it seems father time has caught up with him.
As for Jerry Forrest, fingers crossed he gets another good opportunity on the back of this. His gutsy effort and determination were incredible here, and it'll be great to see him rewarded with another solid match up and opportunity on DAZN.
We tend to try and be positive, and enjoy boxing for what it can be. After all we follow this sport because, for the most part we enjoy it. We're fans of boxing, competitive match ups, exciting combat.
Today on DAZN however we genuinely had to ask ourselves why we bother, as they put on one of the worst shows we've ever seen. This was pathetic from start to end, with show case, after showcase, after show case. That wasn't helped by the the dire, frustrating and horrifically bad commentary from a team that has repeatedly been a frustrating trio to listen to. It was a show where the match maker seemingly had the mind set of making prospects look good, but did so at the expense of actually having bouts worth watching on it. In fact it was as if the people behind the show wanted people to be angry about the quality of the fights they were paying to watch.
Sadly, for this show, we actually did need to watch, as there was a Chinese Heavyweight in action on the card. Giving us a reason to tune in, and endure DAZN once again.
The Chinese Heavyweight in question was 37 year old Zhang Zhilei (22-0, 17) [张志磊], a man that has been spoken about as a potential Anthony Joshua opponent. Something the broadcast team suggest could happen in 2022. Yes, when Zhang would be nearing 40!
Amazingly Zhang wasn't the oldest man in the ring for his bout as he took on 38 year old Devin Vargas (22-7, 9). A man who was regarded as such a big under-dog that Zhilei was was a 1.08 betting favourite with the Betfair exchange.
Unfortunately the commentary as they often do with DAZN, tried to hype a Lemon of a fight. Credit to them for trying, but unfortunately it would have taken a magician to have turned a farce like this into something interest. They were trying, bless their dear hearts, but they weren't able to come close to making the bout seem reasonable.
The opening round of the bout was dreary. What were we to expect when the fighters had a combined age of 75 and neither were known for high work rate or having exciting styles. Thankfully Zhang did land a good left hand, as the round would have given us very little to talk about otherwise. Vargas seemed to show some ambition in round 2, but it was little, and Zhang never looked uncomfortable as he booked a second round.
In round 3 we saw Zhang go to the inside and work the body. There was glimpses of a very talented fighter, but they were only glimpses, and they were coming against someone who looked like he was there to lose. There was nice punch selection and good handspeed for a 37 year 6'6" fighter, but the bout was really not setting alive at all.
Thankfully we were all put out of our suffering in round 4 when Zhang showed real class landing a right hook followed by a straight left to stagger Vargas. When then went down after hurting his knee. It was an unfortunate ending to the bout, especially as the two shots before the injury were about the only touches of real class, but it did sum up the show pretty well. It was a dreadful bout, with an ending that we were happy to see just to move the show on.
We don't mean to shit on DAZN here, but this was a dreadful show up to this point (we are writing this the chief support bout and there's a chance that the main could provide some sort of excitement, though we're doubting it), and was evidence again that Matchroom US really are under-delivering.
We understand we're in a pandemic. We understand we're not going to get super fights. But we also understand that if DAZN keep putting on shows like this, and showing no quality control at all, they are going to have shot themselves in the foot big time. They were up against a very, very weak PBC show, but did nothing to appeal to fans here. They had an open goal to make a buzz, but instead they laid an egg.
With DAZN closing in on the launch of their global expansion, they really need to get their promotional partners in-line, now, and prevent more crap like this. Garbage like this will burn through subscribers, very quickly, and they will be very, very hard to recapture after sitting through a terrible show like this.
November 4th, 2020 New York City -- It will be Olympian vs. Olympian on Saturday when former silver medalist Zhang Zhilei (21-0, 16 KOs) returns to the ring against Devin Vargas (22-6, 9 KOs) on the Devin Haney vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa undercard at the Seminole Hard RockHotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The entire card will be streamed live on DAZN.
Zhang was a two-time Olympian for China who became a national hero when he won the silver medal at the Beijing games in 2008. He was narrowly defeated by Anthony Joshua in the London games in 2012. Zhang is seeing his first action of 2020, having last fought in November of 2019, a win over Andriy Rudenko (32-5) in Monaco.
Vargas last fought in January 2020, defeating Victor Bisbal (23-5) at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York.
“This fight is very important to me,” said Zhang. “My aim is for the world title, but I am not overlooking Vargas. He is a veteran and has been in the ring with some of the best. The pandemic has affected everyone in boxing, but my team and Ihave worked hard for months to get to this point. I will put on a good show this Saturday!”
In addition to being streamed live on DAZN, Zhang vs. Vargas will also be televised in the People’s Republic of China on CCTV5, the nation’s central sports channel which is accessible to nearly all 1.4 billion people in China. In Zhang’s homeland, the bout will be delayed only by a few hours and shown midday on Sunday November 8th.
“A very large TV audience will see this fight in China,” said Zhang’s co-advisor Kurt Li. “It will appear on a long-standing weekly boxing show, and we expect viewership to increase this weekend due to Zhilei’s growing popularity. The Chinese public is starting to pay attention to boxing more, largely due to Zhang’s success.”
The DAZN livestream, which includes Zhang vs. Vargas, Haney vs. Gamboa and several other bouts, begins on DAZN at 8PM Eastern time. Zhang is promoted by Matchroom, who recently released a promotional video about Zhang, available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FlgKFRy5-Q.
*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. His professional record is 21-0.
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.
Just moments ago Matchroom Boxing announced their latest signing, announcing they'd struck a deal with unbeaten Chinese Heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (21-0, 16) [张志磊].
On paper this looks a good deal for the British based promotional stable, who have amassed a number of Heavyweights in recent years, including unified Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21), contender Dillian Whyte (27-2, 18), prospect Filip Hrgovic (10-0, 8), Azeri hopeful Mahammadrasul Majidov (2-0, 2) and the enigmatic David Allen (18-5-2, 15).
In reality however it's a but of a nothing signing.
The now 37 year old Zhilei has fought just 3 times since October 2017, and any momentum he has had has been wasted and slowed to the point. He had been linked to a bout with Anthony as far back as 2018, with the talk being of the two to clash in China. Sadly though nothing happened of the talks and we didn't get what would have been a rematch from the 2012 Olympics, where Joshua beat Zhilei.
For Zhilei the move certainly opens up potential bouts, including one with Joshua or Hrgovic, but it's hard to not feel his best years are gone and he has left a move like this far, far too late. He will struggle to get a big bout this year, and with Joshua, Whyte, Alexander Povetkin, Kubrat Pulev, Dereck Chisora, Deontay Wilder, Oleksandr Usyk, and Tyson Fury all tied up it's really hard to see where he now fits in the Heavyweight picture.
We're sure Matchroom have signed him for a reason, though it's worth noting that he's 38 in May and it's going to be very clear Matchroom can't take too long to get a big fight, if they expect him to make a mark at the top.
Following the announcement of the signing Eddie hearn has stated:
"Zhilei is ready to take on all-comers and as he aims for his 22nd win in November, the next step for ‘Big Bang’ then will be to face his fellow top-class contenders and get in position for a World title shot.”
So whilst he is scheduled to fight before the end of the year it still seems tricky to get Zhilei a big bout before he losses the on going battle to father time.
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.
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