Heavyweight contender Zhilei Zhang isn’t quite on board with the upcoming fight between Francis Ngannou and Anthony Joshua.
The two former champions of their respective sports are due to cross paths in a boxing ring in Saudi Arabia in early March; a fight made possible by Ngannou’s pro boxing debut where he lost a razor-thin split decision to the still-unbeaten Tyson Fury in October, as well as Joseph Parker’s surprise win over Deontay Wilder last month — which waylaid plans for a Joshua-Wilder bout.
But with Ngannou now filling that slot against Joshua despite having just one fight — a loss — on his record, Chinese heavyweight contender Zhang doesn’t believe the fight is anything more than a money-grabbing exhibition.
“I think, from my perspective, that is a ten-round exhibition,” the 40-year-old, defeated just once in his career, said to Fight Hype.
A lot of people are going to tune in to watch that fight because they want to see boxing versus MMA, Joshua versus Ngannou, two famous athletes going at each other,” Zhang said.
However, while he admits the fight has captured the public attention he says that as an athletic competition, there can only be one winner.
“To me, there is no question that Joshua will get the victory and it’s just, like I said, a ten-round exhibition and if you really look at it from boxing perspective, you know who the main-event will be,” he said.
Zhang last competed in September where he scored a second successive win over Britain’s Joe Joyce — fights which rebounded him from his sole career loss in August 2022 against undefeated Croat Filip Hrgovic.
The Chinese will next fight Wilder’s conqueror, Joseph Parker, on the undercard of the Ngannou-Joshua bout on March 8.