It appears Zhilei Zhang is parlaying his prolific knockout win against Joe Joyce into a world title shot.
Top Rank boss Bob Arum said Zhang is the leading candidate to fight WBC and Ring Magazine heavyweight champion Tyson Fury later this summer.
“No, not really [Andy Ruiz is not the leading candidate to fight Fury anymore]. We're focusing on the Chinese kid that beat Joe Joyce,” Arum told Ringside Reporter. “Yes [Zhang is the frontrunner to fight Fury]. It's likely for July. We're trying to close that out over this weekend.”
The 40-year-old “Big Bang” Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) dominated Joyce on April 15, damaging his right eye to force a sixth-round stoppage. In the process, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist picked up the WBO interim heavyweight title.
The 34-year-old Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) has been inactive since December after he scored a tenth-round TKO win in a rematch against a faded Derek Chisora.
In the following months, Fury and company worked toward striking a deal with WBO, WBA, IBF, and IBO titlist Oleksandr Usyk for an undisputed title fight, but a deal never crossed the finish line after much hoopla.
Arum eyed Ruiz and Joyce as potential opponents for Fury, but both candidates appear to have been punted for the time being.
“I just came back from my vacation, so everything is fresh to me. I believe that my team has made communications with their team on that matter. Let’s do it Tyson. If you’re looking at July, I’ll be ready for you in July,” Zhang said earlier this week.
The only blemish on Zhang's resume is a close decision loss against Filip Hrgovic last summer.
Zhang scored a first-round knockdown but was outlanded 208 to 154 in the twelve-round fight and wound up dropping a decision with scores of 112-115, 112-115, and 113-114 to the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist.
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com, or via www.ManoukAkopyan.com.