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‘Once I’m in that ring, I feel like home’: Zhilei Zhang talks big upcoming fights in Saudi Arabia

Zhilei Zhang touches on all of the upcoming Saudi cards, where he’ll also be featured in March.

Zhilei Zhang isn’t feeling any added pressure to perform on a big Saudi Arabian stage.
Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

As Zhilei Zhang prepares for his next fight, taking on Joseph Parker in Saudi Arabia, he talks to Fight Hype about a number of topics including Joshua vs Ngannou, Fury vs Usyk, Deterbiev vs Bivol, and of course his own bout. Check out some excerpts of what Zhang had to say though his translator.

Zhang on how Anthony Joshua should approach his fight against Francis Ngannou

“I think what Joshua should do is approach him smartly. Do not go in just trying to bang him out, knock him out because Ngannou has the power and he is a strong individual. And when that punch lands because you’re careless, that’s a disaster. So I think Joshua should set him up using his boxing skill, using his footwork and setting him up little by little.”

On getting a number of big events from Saudi Arabia lately

“I think his excellency in Saudi Arabia, they really turned boxing around. We can see that boxing is shifting center from traditionally those locations in The States and in the UK to Saudi Arabia. Big fights are happening, the strongest is fighting the strongest, and the most popular is fighting the most popular. So I really appreciate that because that’s what we’re fighting for, to have this platform to showcase our ability against a strong guy that equally wanting the fight just like us.”

On if he believes people are generally overblowing Ngannou’s knockdown of Tyson Fury

“I don’t even think Tyson Fury trained for the Ngannou fight. He probably took it not seriously. I don’t know what he did in that camp but he looked like he didn’t even train one day for that fight. So with Usyk I think it comes down to his preparation. He’s obviously having his physical advantage: he’s taller, he’s having longer reach, and in a way he’s stronger. So I think if he takes it seriously he’s going to pull this off.”

On if he feels pressure to really show out against Joseph Parker in order to land a fight against Joshua

“No pressure because I feel like if I train daily, I train consistently and I put myself at a very high standard, I should be able to perform 100% in the ring. And once I’m in that ring, no matter where the location is, I feel like home. And my opponent, his coach, his team, they’re my guests. I’ll treat them with respect, but I’ll treat them well.”

On who he believes will win between Artur Beterbiev and Dmirty Bivol

“I think that’s a great fight...Beterbiev is just better on the record and better in the ring. I feel like if that fight happens, they’re both great fighters, but Beterbiev will hurt him. He will probably end this fight with a knockout.

“I think in that particular case Beterbiev’s power will overwhelm Bivol’s in-and-out footwork and his skill set. The reason being Beterbiev is just way too strong in his division.”

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