On Saturday night in Brussels fans got the chance to see local hero Ryad Merhy (30-1, 25) successfully defend his WBA "regular" Cruiserweight title for the first time, as he defeated Chinese challenger Zhaoxin Zhang (10-2-1, 6), who some how entered the bout ranked #14 by the WBA despite not having a single win of note on his record.
Whilst the WBA are known as a farcical organisation in recent years, it very much felt, going in to this one, that Zhang had been parachuted a ranking to help Merhy get an easy defense and to create a bit of history, with Zhang being the first ever Chinese Cruiserweight to fight for a world title. Sadly though all it really did was further take away from the legitimacy of the WBA, who need to do better before the move to re-recognise the Association picks up any more steam with antics like this.
As for the bout everyone, and their dog, was picking a Merhy stoppage, with the main question going in not being about who would win, but how long it would take him. And surprisingly it took until round 8 for the Belgian based fighter, originally from the Ivory Coast, to see off Zhang. That was despite Merhy being in total control and looking like he could have gone through the gears and really taken this any time he wanted.
To his credit Zhang showed some ambition, some skills and a busy jab, but there was very little on his shots and every time Merhy opened up the challenger looked worried and in trouble. It was clear Zhang had nothing to get Merhy's respect and midway through round 8 Merhy dropped his man with a sweeping left hook for the second knockdown of the fight. Zhang showed heart to get to his feet but the referee made the right call in stopping the bout and saving Zhang, who seemed unhappy at the stoppage but really was lucky that Merhy wasn't in an angry mood as this could have gotten very ugly, very quickly.
As for Merhy this really needs to be used to kick start his career in a division that is heavily dominated by European fighters. There are much, much, much better options out there for him than a fighter like Zhang.
As for Zhang however we wouldn't be that disappointed to see him mixing on the OPBF title scene in the newar future. The OPBF title picture in the region is poor, and he showed enough here to suggest he could play a role in the regional scene. Fingers crossed that is something he and his team consider, despite this set back.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.