Zhilei Zhang is desperate for a world championship chance and believes he will make that dream come true by defeating Filip Hrgovic in an IBF elimination match Saturday night.
The heavyweights face Saudi Arabia with the goal of wresting attention from Anthony Joshua’s headline rematch with Oleksandr Usyk, the winner of which one of them looks set to take on.
Zhang, who lost to gold medalist Joshua in the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Olympics, went into the match undefeated 24-0-1 (19 KOs) in his professional career.
Advisor Terry Lane told Sky Sports that he believes the 39-year-old can become a world No 1 heavyweight.
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“Overall, we think Zhang is the stronger and superior fighter,” Lane said of the fight against Hrgovic. “I don’t want to go into details, but we think the fight is in our favor.”
It is expected as a compelling side story that pursues the frontrunners to win the heavyweight belt, both of whom know victory will put them in the required position.
If he does win Zhang has no desire to wait around, although it is uncertain when he can make a long-awaited title shot.
“Unfortunately, this is beyond our control,” added Lane. “Zhang really wants to fight for the title. We will do everything we can to make that happen as quickly as possible.”
Hrgovic is 3rd in the IBF standings and is also undefeated with a 14-0 record (12 KOs), although he hasn’t fought since December 2021 when he stopped Emir Ahmatovic in the 3rd round.
The Olympic bronze medalist has faced the issue of locking down a willing partner in recent months and was confronted by Zhang in the Canelo Alvarez-Dmitry Bivol card in May before the fight was pushed back after the loss of his father Hrgovic.
“We went through the whole list, a lot of fighters didn’t want to fight me and I’m glad we found one who wanted that,” Hrgovic said during his press conference. “Thanks to Zhang and his team, I think we’ll make a great battle.
“We’re both big guys, we’re both big boxers, I think he’s a really dangerous guy but he lasts for a couple of rounds. I’m dangerous for all matches, I’m dangerous for 12 rounds, that’s the difference.”
Meanwhile, Zhang has promised another showcase of ‘Chinese power’ as he vows to make his country proud in the biggest battle of his career.
He said: “Being here is a privilege for me, of course this match is very important, it’s an IBF elimination, winning this bout means I can face the man directly. won Usyk-Joshua and it means a lot in China and the sport of boxing in China.
“For my last fight, 60 million people in China watched, I believe we will make more history this time, I am expecting 100 million, I have 1.4 billion people stand behind and support me, let’s make it happen. I’m fighting for my country.”
Speaking to Sky Sports last week, Hrgovic insisted “the best years of my career” are ahead of him.
In addition to Zhang, there is no lack of ability.
“I want to fight all the best boxers of this era,” he said. “I want to fight everyone, starting with guys like (Martin) Bakole or (Joe) Joyce, or Frank Sanchez, and then Joshua, Wilder, Usyk. Of course, I want to fight them all. chief.
“I really like all the tough games, I hope they happen in the next five years.”
Joseph Parker will battle Joe Joyce later this year, the winner of that contest awaiting as another potential target.
“Of course it’s a great fight and facing the winner would be great,” he said. “I think we’re all promising, you have a few who are considered the best like Fury, Usyk, Joshua, but all the rest, we need to fight each other to get good things. for a chance to fight for a world title.
“There are a lot of prospects and good fighters, we need to fight each other. A lot of people are looking to avoid tough matches and get a big payday and that’s it. I want to fight. with all these good people.”
Anthony Joshua’s massive heavyweight rematch with Oleksandr Usyk takes place on Saturday, August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs Joshua 2 Tickets Now!