On the eve of the highly anticipated showdown between Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, two heavyweight giants will go head-to-head in an undercard battle that promises fireworks. Chinese boxer Zhang Zhilei (26-1-1, 21 KOs) will defend his “interim” WBO world champion title against the formidable Joseph Parker of New Zealand (34-3, 23 KOs).

In 2023, Zhang Zhilei achieved a career milestone, notably defeating Philip Hrgovic in a fight that some argue he didn’t deserve to lose. However, his victory over the seemingly indestructible Joe Joyce was the turning point. Joyce, known for his durable chin and relentless attacks, succumbed to Zhilei’s strategic blows, marking the first time in his career that he was knocked out prematurely.

The rematch with Joyce was deemed unnecessary by some, but the Briton insisted, promising a better performance. However, Zhilei outdid himself, delivering a third-round knockout that secured triumph and highlighted the Chinese boxer’s prowess.

Joseph Parker, at 32, has also experienced a stellar 2023, boxing four times and securing four victories, two of which were early stoppages. While his opponents might not boast the same caliber as Zhilei’s recent challenges, Parker’s resilience and skill set make him a formidable contender.

His most significant triumph came against Deontay Wilder on December 23 in Saudi Arabia. Despite Wilder being the favorite, Parker’s defensive prowess and strategic maneuvering resulted in a resounding victory. Wilder’s post-fight comments, initially claiming he did everything to win, later changed, perhaps upon reflection of the lackluster performance.

As both fighters enter the ring on March 8th, the intrigue surrounding the bout is palpable.

Zhilei is the bookmakers’ favorite at 1.50, while Parker stands at 2.60. Determining a true favorite is challenging, making this undercard clash one of the most intriguing matchups in recent times.

Last updated on 07 Mar 2024 - 17:10

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