JAKARTADAILY.ID – Zhang Zhilei, a 39-year-old boxer from the People's Republic of China, has made history by becoming the first Asian to win the WBO version of the interim heavyweight boxing championship.
Heavyweight is considered the most prestigious division in boxing, and the North American region, especially the United States and Europe, has traditionally dominated the heavyweight boxing scene. However, Zhang managed to stop the interim champion from England, Joe Joyce, via TKO in round 6, at the Copper Box Arena in London on April 16, 2023.
Zhang, nicknamed "Big Bang," took advantage of his weight advantage in the first round by throwing jabs and straights, especially stinging left punches to Joyce's face, which were slow to heat up.
In the second round, Zhang returned to throwing combination punches while Joyce was still trying to get closer to the fighting distance. Zhang delivered a straight punch to the stomach and a right hook to the chin.
In the third round, Zhang again dominated the fight by keeping the ideal distance to give punches to Joyce, who tried to play tight.
Zhang's combination punches proved too much for Joyce, and in the sixth round, Zhang swelled Joyce's right eye. The doctor at ringside decided to stop the fight after seeing that Joyce's right eye could no longer see, and the referee had no choice but to award Zhang a TKO victory in round six after just 1 minute 23 seconds.
Zhang dedicated his victory to the Chinese people, saying, "Today is mine. This victory belongs to every Chinese everywhere. I am already 39 years old, but I am disciplined and training hard. My next step is to pursue another title."
Zhang, a super heavyweight silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, now has a 27-1-1, 20 KO record. With his success in winning the WBO interim heavyweight belt, Zhang is likely to face WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury or WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.
On the other hand, Joyce, 37 years old, who was previously undefeated, now has a tarnished record of 16-1, 14 KOs.
He was disappointed with his performance and asked to fight again. "My right hand kept hitting him, but I couldn't put pressure on him. I haven't fought a left-hander in a long time. But he's a good fighter; he punches hard. I'm sorry to all my fans. I'll be back; this is not the end for me, these are just obstacles that tripped me up," he said.