Despite having the option of a rematch with Joseph Parker, Zhilei Zhang’s return to the ring will instead reportedly come against another former heavyweight champion – Deontay Wilder.

Wilder was last seen losing to Parker on December 23 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Parker then ended Zhang’s impressive run of form.

Now, Zhang and Wilder will face off in an intriguing fight in the same city, heading the June 1 undercard of the undisputed light-heavyweight title fight between Russian champions Artur Beterbiev and Dmitrii Bivol, according to a report from ESPN.

“It’s a good fight, a tremendous co-feature,” Beterbiev’s promoter Bob Arum told BoxingScene Friday of a bout that will be seen on the ESPN-televised card. “Yes, Zhang is coming off a disappointing loss to Parker, and so is Wilder, but it’s an opportunity for both guys to put that fight behind them.”

What happens to the loser is uncertain. Zhang is 40 and looked diminished as the Parker bout proceeded to the later rounds, and Wilder produced a lethargic showing that closed with post-fight comments that made it unclear if he would fight again.

“Look, big heavyweights can absorb losses and keep going,” Arum said, alluding to the boxing adage that power punching is the final asset to leave a champion. “There’s still a big [public] appetite for these two, even if they’ve lost. It’s all a question of the market.

“In the U.S., with Zhang and Wilder leading a pay-per-view, maybe [fans would] say, ‘Two losers … ’, but in Saudi Arabia, combining this fight with the anticipated light-heavyweight championship, it’s really now a plus-plus that no fight fan can complain about.”

China’s Zhang is 26-2-1 (21 KOs); former WBC heavyweight champion Wilder is 43-3-1 (42 KOs).

Wilder has boxed once a year for the past four years. Zhang fought twice in 2021, twice in 2022 and twice in 2023.

Zhang was favored to beat Parker, and he dropped the revitalized New Zealander twice but was outworked and fatigued badly down the stretch of their 12-round fight before losing a majority decision in Saudi Arabia on March 8.

ESPN also reported the same bill could feature another big heavyweight clash between IBF number-one contender Filip Hrgovic, who holds a win over Zhang, and IBF number-four Daniel Dubois, who last December handed Jarrell Miller a 10th-round stoppage loss in Saudi Arabia.

Messages left by BoxingScene for Queensberry Promotions, for Zhang and Dubois, to Zhang’s managers and Hrgovic manager Keith Connolly, were not immediately returned.