Hearn signs Zhilei Zhang to his Matchroom stable
By Trevor McIntyre: Matchroom Boxing has signed two-time Chinese Olympian Zhilei Zhang to a co-promotional deal that give him a solid heavyweight to mix and match against some of his other talented fighters in his stable. Zhang, 35, almost beat Anthony Joshua in the 2012 Olympics in losing a narrow 15-11 score. Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn revealed the news of Zhang’s signing on IFL TV.
The unbeaten Zhang (20-0, 16 KOs) will be added to this month’s card Lucas Browne vs. David Allen card on April 20 at the O2 Arena in London, England. The potential opponent for the 6’6″ southpaw Zhang is journeyman Tom Little (10-7, 3 KOs).
A logical reason for Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn to sign Zhang, as he can eventually setup rematch between him and Anthony Joshua in the future in China. A fight between Joshua and Zhang won’t play out in the UK or the United States, but it would be a big deal in China.
Zhang has been matched carefully since turning pro in facing lower level opposition. He’s knocked out his last nine opponent since being taken the six round distance by Rodney Hernandez in July of 2016. In Zhang’s last six fights, he’s beaten these fighters: Don Haynesworth, Eugen Buchmueller, Byron Polley, Nick Guivas, Curtis Harper and Mark Brown. Zhang is pretty old for a fighter that is being matched the way he’s been by his promoters.
Normally Olympians are put in immediately with top tier fighters nowadays rather than being put in lesser opposition year after year the way Zhang’s handlers have done with him. He’s a two-time Olympians, so would make more sense for them to have moved him quickly rather than treating him like a novice with no amateur background whatsoever. Further, Zhang was already 30-years-old when he turned pro in 2014, and that’s another reason for him to have been moved quickly rather than at a snail’s pace.
Hearn having Zhang as one of his stable fighters will enable him to match him against some of his other heavyweights with Matchroom. If Hearn doesn’t want to throw Zhang in with Joshua in 2020 or 2021, he can put him in with Dereck Chisora, Dillian Whyte and/or David Allen. With his huge size and his amateur pedigree, Zhang would have an excellent chance of beating Chisora and Allen, as those guys aren’t super talented fighters. They can punch a little, but both are vulnerable.
Hearn says it’s important for Allen to win his April 20 fight against former WBA heavyweight champion Lucas Browne at the O2. A victory for Allen, 26, could put get him a top 15 ranking in the heavyweight division, and open possible fights against some of the more talented fighters in the division. It’s unclear whether Hearn will want to make those fights. He could feed Allen weak opposition to get him ranked high enough for him to get a title shot against Anthony Joshua.