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Zhilei Zhang wants Anthony Joshua fight in China: “It would be huge for boxing”

Zhilei Zhang and Anthony Joshua have some amateur history, and could make for a big pro fight in Beijing or Shanghai.

Zhang Zhilei v Glenn Thomas Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Heavyweight Zhilei Zhang has amateur history with Anthony Joshua, and with the 37-year-old set to return on the Feb. 27 Canelo vs Yildirim card in Miami, he admits he’s thought about putting on a blockbuster fight in China with Joshua.

“I would love to fight AJ in China because of our amateur backgrounds,” said Zhang. “The venue is there, the Bird’s Nest holds 100,000, so we have it all. Beijing and Shanghai are the biggest cities, very economically developed and boxing in China is growing. The sports fans there like boxing, they like AJ, so if we can make it happen it would be huge for boxing.

Zhang (22-0, 17 KO) won silver at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and was eliminated in the second round by Joshua at London 2012, when AJ won gold. He’s been pro since 2014, but frankly hasn’t really broken through much, and at his age, time to get going is becoming a factor.

He’ll be facing Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20 KO) on the Canelo-Yildirim show, and feels good coming off of a November win over Devin Vargas.

“It was a good performance last time out, but we’ve seen what I can do better and in this camp we’ve focused on that, and we have also worked on becoming stronger, so I will be prepared for Jerry,” he said. “Jerry has a good record and I respect him a lot. We’ve studied him and know all about him. I hope that when it comes to the fight, we put on a good show for the fans.”

Forrest, 32, is coming off of a loss to Carlos Takam last July, and he doesn’t have any big wins, but he knows his way around the ring. For Zhang, it’s a chance to stand out on a card that is naturally a big event simply by having Canelo Alvarez in the main event.

“I’m excited to be on the same card as Canelo, he’s an amazing fighter in the ring and a great businessman outside the ring,” Zhang said. “It’s a big plus and it gives me the chance to showcase my skills to a huge audience and build to bigger fights later in the year.”

Right now, of course, Joshua is focused on an undisputed heavyweight championship fight with Tyson Fury, which isn’t official but we’re promised every week or so is coming any couple of weeks now.

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