Zhoukou, China (January 28, 2024) -In the upcoming clash for the interim WBO heavyweight title at Riyadh's Kingdom Arena on March 8, Chinese top heavyweight Zhang Zhilei is set to face Joseph Parker. While Zhang enjoys a psychological edge after defeating Parker in their amateur days, concerns over his stamina have emerged, according to Chinese boxing experts.
Zhang, 40, currently holds the interim WBO heavyweight title since his victory over Joe Joyce in April, which he reinforced with a devastating knockout in their September rematch. However, doubts linger about Zhang's stamina, especially considering his loss to Hrgovic in 2022 and a previous comeback against Scott Alexander, lasting only one round.
Zhou Chao, a China sports journalist and boxing expert, voiced concerns about Zhang's ability to endure a full 12-round fight, citing past performances. "Zhang Zhilei’s loss to Hrgovic [in 2022] and his fight against Scott Alexander made people say he was not physically fit enough to go a full 12 rounds," Zhou emphasized.
Du Wenjie, a CCTV boxing commentator and veteran sports journalist, echoed these sentiments, suggesting that Parker could pose Zhang's most formidable challenge yet. "I think this is Zhang’s biggest test to date," Du remarked, emphasizing Parker's rhythm, footwork, and strategic attacks observed in his recent wins.
Joseph Parker, a former world champion, enters the bout with confidence, having rebounded from his loss to Joyce in September 2022 with impressive wins against Jack Massey, Faiga Opelu, Simon Kean, and Deontay Wilder.
"For Zhang, I don’t think he will be worried about the age difference because he is so confident right now," Du commented. However, the commentator acknowledged Parker's calculated approach, rhythm, and skillful footwork observed in the recent victories.
The WBO heavyweight title is currently held by Oleksandr Usyk, who is set to face Tyson Fury for the vacant Undisputed Heavyweight Championship February 17. The potential two-way rematch between Usyk and Fury could impact the title landscape, potentially leading to the IBF title, currently held by Usyk, being vacated if a rematch occurs before facing the mandatory challenger.
Zhou speculated on the broader top heavyweight boxing picture, suggesting that if Fury wins, he might prioritize a fight against Anthony Joshua who may hold the IBF title if he's matched against Hrgovic.
As the March 8 showdown approaches, the heavyweight division awaits the outcome of Zhang Zhilei's stamina test against Joseph Parker in Riyadh. Stay tuned for more updates on this career-defining clash.
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