By Jake Tiernan: Eddie Hearn talks down the threat that WBO interim heavyweight champion Zhilei Zhang poses to his fading money fighter Anthony Joshua.
A fight against Zhang is what Joshua needs to prove that he’s still a top-level fighter because fans think he is washed up and just looking for a cash-out retirement fight against Deontay Wilder.
Recently, Hearn had said that Joshua was going to fight in December and would entertain the possibility of fighting Zhang.
Now, however, Hearn is dismissing that idea, telling fans that he’s slow and saying that Joshua already beat him in the 2012 London Olympics.
Hearn appears to be making excuses for why he shouldn’t entertain the idea of matching Joshua against Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs) despite the fan interest in the match-up.
The Deontay Wilder fight that Hearn has been banging the drum for doesn’t look like it’s going to happen now that the Saudis have lost interest.
They had to have noticed that Joshua is no longer fighting quality opposition since his back-to-back losses to Oleksandr Usyk, so it is not surprising that they’re unwilling to throw a mountain of money at him to fight the inactive former WBC heavyweight champion Deontay, who has only fought once since his loss to Tyson Fury in 2021.
You can’t blame the Saudis for losing interest in Joshua because the boxing world can see he’s 100% shot. The Wilder fight is just a cash-out, and the Saudis aren’t interested. Hearn has been talking up the Wilder fight for ages and never happens.
“I have absolutely no problem with that fight at all. We looked at it before quite a few times, and I just feel that if you think that AJ is going to worry about Zhilei Zhang,” said Eddie Hearn on the Seconds Out YouTube channel.
“I see things like people talk about AJ’s chin, and now when you look at the fighters and the punchers that he’s been in with, Zhang is heavy-handed, but he’s very slow as well.
“We’ve had that fight. AJ beat him in the amateurs [by a questionable decision at the 2012 London Olympics]. If there’s a big fight to be
done there, particularly at the Birds Nest in China, 100%, we take that fight.
“Our focus is Deontay Wilder, but if we can’t get that fight, AJ wants the biggest fights out there, and the two biggest fights are Fury and Wilder. If we can’t get them, Zhang might be another option,” said Hearn.
Joshua will only agree to 50-50 deal
“With Wilder? Yeah, maybe,” said Hearn when asked if Joshua vs. Wilder could be a WBC final eliminator. “Tyson Fury has said he would agree to 60-40 against AJ.
“When AJ knocks out Deontay Wilder, the deal is 50-50. because when Tyson Fury drew with Deontay Wilder and he was beltless, he said, ‘I will only fight AJ on 50-50. and it was a draw, even though I thought he won the fight.”
If Hearn is serious about Joshua needing a 50-50 split for him to take the Fry fight, it probably means the contest will never happen.
Fury will continue doing his crossover fights against non-boxers if he doesn’t get the split that he wants against Joshua, and that’ll be the end of any hopes of that matchmaking place.
“So when AJ stops Deontay Wilder, the fight with Fury is 50-50 if he ever agrees to take it. I saw [Francis] Ngannou on the pads yesterday. Look, I love the event; I think it’s unbelievable. This is going to be [a mismatch], yeah,” said Hearn.
“One, I don’t think Ngannou could go four or five rounds if Tyson Fury fights at pace. Two, watch him on the pads,” said Hearn.