The world of boxing is a strange one at times, and in deep divisions we still get some challengers come along who really don't have any right, at all, to be competing for a world title. That just so happens to be the case this coming Saturday in Belgium as we see unknown Chinese fighter Zhaoxin Zhang (10-1-1, 6) face off with WBA Cruiserweight champion Ryad Merhy (29-1, 24) in what looks like a very, very clear case of a lamb being thrown to the slaughter. In fact it looks like one of the worse world title bout to be stages in 2021.
For those who don't follow the Cruiserweight division, the division is one of the more easy to over-look right now. Since Oleksandr Usyk left the division, it's struggled a little bit for an identity. Mairis Briedis is the best of the bunch, but not a lot separate the chasing pack, including Ilunga Makabu, Yuniel Dorticos, Thabiso Mchunu, Lawrence Okolie, Arsen Goulamirian and the aforementioned Merhy. In fact if you throw that group of fighters into a mini tournament, to decide who Briedis should fight in 2022 you'd end up with a brilliant series of fights. They all have power, they can all fight and yet they all have their own styles, some of which are very different to others, with Okolie being a rangy outside fighter and Dorticos being more of a power punching force of nature.
When it comes to Merhy himself his only loss came more than 3 years ago to Goulamirian and since then he has bounced back with 5 wins, all by stoppage. He has proven that he's a huge puncher, with a real nasty side to him. He takes a shot well, he comes to fight and although he's not the biggest or the smoothest in the division, he's one of the most exciting and among the most intimidating. He is a fighter who should become the face of Belgian boxing over the next few years, and at 28 he really does have time to make a huge mark on the sport.
Aged 25 Zhaoxin Zhang is really an unknown, even among those who follow Chinese boxing. He debuted in 2017 as a Super Middleweight, fighting to a draw and he was 5-1-1 (2) after 7 bouts, with a loss against Zulipikaer Maimaitiali. Since then he has filled out his frame, become a fully fledged Cruiserweight and scored 5 wins in a row. Sadly though they are against, at best, domestic level competition. There is nothing of international significance on his record and nothing to explain why the WBA have got him in their world rankings. In fact Boxrec ranking him at #68 in the division seems like it's still very, very flattering to the Chinese fighter.
The most telling bout for Zhang so far came in 2019 when he cased Chase Haley, a much smaller fighter, and still struggled to get the decision, squeaking by with a majority decision win. Through out that bout he looked clumsy, slow, awkward and very fortunate that Haley lacked the power and skills needed to take him out.
Given how easy Haley had success against Zhang we really can't see this being anything but a knock over job for Merhy, who can likely finish this as early as he wants.
Prediction - Merhy TKO3
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.