After surging to prominence with big wins in 2023, top heavyweights Zhang Zhilei and Joseph Parker are set to meet in the co-feature of Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou on March 8th.
Declan Taylor first brought word early this morning, with Mike Coppinger and Jake Donovan later confirming the news. We can expect official confirmation at today’s press conference, which kicks off at noon Eastern.
“Big Bang” Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KO) claimed the interim WBO title last year with back-to-back knockouts of Joe Joyce, the first via grotesque swelling and the second via one-hitter quitter five months later. This puts him in line for a crack at the full title presently held by Oleksandr Usyk, but with the unified champ likely to spend all of 2024 fighting Tyson Fury, he’ll instead square off with the belt’s former owner in Joseph Parker (34-3, 23 KO).
Parker (34-3, 23 KO), the younger man by eight years, has won four straight since his own unfortunate run-in with “The Juggernaut.” A four-fight 2023 saw him take a decision over an unexpectedly game Jack Massey, demolish a pair of overmatched foes in Faiga Opelu and Simon Kean, then cap off the year by cruising past Deontay Wilder last month.
This is without a doubt one of the better matchups the division has to offer. Now all that’s left is to get Filip Hrgovic and Frank Sanchez in there with warm bodies.
UPDATE: More of the undercard lineup has been revealed. Of note is the return of WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas (36-1, 22 KO) in what should be a banger against top contender Nick Ball (19-0, 11 KO), who out-slugged Isaac Dogboe in November.
The only other complete bout pits Mark Chamberlain (14-0, 10 KO) against Gavin Gwynne (17-2-1, 5 KO) in a clash of two of Britain’s top lightweights. TBA has a full schedule against Jack McGann, Roman Fury, Ziyad Almaayouf, and Justis Huni.