Deontay Wilder’s career as a top heavyweight, and perhaps as a professional boxer, is almost certainly over after he was knocked out in the fifth round by Zhilei Zhang in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday night. A short lead right hand spun Wilder around, leaving the American open for a follow-up right hand that landed flush and dropped the “Bronze Bomber” to his back. Wilder rose at eight, but he was clearly beaten, and referee Kieran McCann waved a halt to the contest.

Wilder (43-4-1, 42 KOs) was, to put it mildly, never the greatest technician in the ring, but he raced to a record of 40-0 with 39 KOs and the WBC heavyweight title courtesy of his almost superhuman one-punch power and his willingness to throw caution to the wind in his pursuit of knockouts. But a three-fight series with Tyson Fury saw him go 0-2-1 and visit the canvas five times in total, and although he scored a first-round KO of Robert Helenius in October 2022, he looked listless in defeat against Joseph Parker last December. He seemed even more hesitant from the outset against Zhang, backing away from his opponent and pawing with his jab without ever showing enthusiasm for deploying his trademark right hand.

Zhang (27-2-1, 22 KOs) was not a great deal more active, but he was at least somewhat more assertive, walking Wilder down and trapping him in the corner and against the ropes on several occasions.

Ironically, Wilder finally opened up at the start of the fifth and caught Zhang with a pair of straight right hands. But in doing so, he left himself open to Zhang’s punches and it was as he threw a right hand of his own that he walked into the punch that proved to be the beginning of the end.

For Zhang, the victory was an important return to the win column after suffering a decision loss to Parker in March.

“When I lost to Parker, he was the better man that night,” Zhang said afterward. “But I learned a lot. After I knocked out Joe Joyce, I got overconfident, but I learned you have to stay focused.” Of his vanquished foe, he said simply that “I successfully took his right hand away. He punches hard. I give him a lot of respect.”

The fight was the main event of the “5 vs 5” card between Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions, and Warren emerged as an overwhelming winner, with his fighters’ hands being raised at the end of each contest.