Parker lines up fight with in-form Chinese heavyweight Zhang

By rnz.co.nz and is republished with permission

New Zealand heavyweight Joseph Parker has got his wish and will return to the ring quickly in a showdown with Chinese powerhouse Zhilei Zhang.

Off the back of his dominant pre-Christmas win over American Deontay Wilder, Parker has agreed to another rich contest in Saudi Arabia, against Zhang in Riyadh on March 8.

It will be the “co-feature” on a card also headlined by the fight between Briton Anthony Joshua and UFC specialist Francis Ngannou, whose only professional boxing fight was a loss to Tyson Fury in October.

Parker, 32, and 40-year-old Zhang are coming off emphatic wins over notable opponents.

The New Zealander revived his career with a unanimous points win over Wilder, showing a renewed dynamism in notching the 34th victory of his career and his fourth in a row since losing to Briton Joe Joyce in 2022.

After the Wilder fight, Parker expressed a desire to fight Joshua.

However, he said if that couldn’t happen, he just wanted to get back into the ring quickly.

“I’d like to get out as soon as I can. March, I’d love to fight in March,” he said.

“So listen, I’m training every day, I’m working hard, I’m eating clean. I’m just enjoying rest time but I know there’s a fight coming or looming very soon.”

Southpaw Zhang exploded into prominence with two knockout wins over the previously-unbeaten Joyce last year, the second coming in the third round in October to improve his career record to 26 wins, 21 by knockout.

A silver-medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Zhang boasts an enormous 1.97m frame and won of the most powerful left-hands in the heavyweight ranks.\

His lone loss was to Croat Filip Hrgovic in a contentious points decision in 2022.

Great Britain’s Anthony Joshua previously described a potential bout with Cameroon-born Ngannou, 37, as a “gimmick fight”.

Ngannou sent the undefeated Fury to the canvas with a left hook before losing in a split decision.

Joshua is keen to put himself in the mix to face the winner of a fight in Februay between WBC champion Fury multiple belt-holder Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine.

Boxing commentators have said the fight against Ngannou represents less risk for Joshua than might be anticipated against Parker – who many had considered an obvious next opponent after his victory over Wilder.

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