Boxing Results: Joseph Parker defeats Zhilei Zhang, captures WBO interim heavyweight title 

By Dan Ambrose - 03/08/2024 - Comments

WBO interim heavyweight champion Zhilei Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KOs) looked his age tonight, losing a 12-round majority decision to former WBO champion Joseph Parker (35-3, 23 KOs) on Saturday night at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Zhang scored two knockdowns, but couldn’t follow up due to his conditioning.

The 40-year-old Zhang, who weighed 291 lbs last Thursday, dropped Parker in rounds three and eight but failed to do much in any of the other rounds. He looked tired, which allowed Parker to get the better of the action.

Parker stole many of the rounds from seven through twelve just by doing a tad bit more than Zhang, who looked like he was waiting on the perfect opportunity to land a knockout shot.

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If Zhang had let his hands go as he’d done in his last three previous fights, Parker wouldn’t have lasted more than two or three rounds, but he looked chubby, like he’d come in too heavy.

In hindsight, it was a mistake for Zhang to come into this fight in the 290s, as that was too much weight and affected his hand speed and stamina. Zhang didn’t land a punch in the 12th round because he was too tired. That was telling.

Before the final round, Zhang’s trainer, Sean George, had told him to let his hands go in the 12th, and he nodded repeatedly, letting him know that he wouldn’t. He couldn’t follow the instructions because he was so exhausted, and he made Parker look better than he actually was.

Zhang has a rematch clause, so he can force a second fight with Parker. What’s clear is Zhang needs to lose weight to get back down to where he was for his two wins over Joe Joyce. That version of Zhang would have been lethal tonight, as he was devasting in those two fights against Joyce.

Similar to Parker’s last fight against 38-year-old Deontay Wilder, he didn’t look great but was fighting an older fighter who wasn’t throwing punches.

If this had been the ultra-aggressive Joe Joyce that Parker was fighting, he likely would have folded as he did in their fight in 2022, but Zhang showed poor stamina from the get-go and rarely threw anything.

“I’m contracted to fight Zhang again. I’ll beat him again, and I’m free to fight whoever,” said Parker to Boxing King Media. “It’s a tough ask, but I’ll do it again and then move on. I don’t make the rankings, and whoever puts us wherever. I just want to do my job, and wherever they rank me, so be it.

“The Bronze Bomber didn’t land anything clean, so I didn’t feel the power he possesses. Zhang landed clean on me, and it was good. It was nice and sharp and strong. The great thing was I was in shape. I was able to recover very quickly.

“It’ll be 100% [the rematch] at some point at the end of the year. It’s going to be another tough fight, but I want to go away and prepare very well in New Zealand. We’ll be blocking ourselves away for four or five months and come back, and Andy [Lee] will put in the work. I’ll be better, stronger, faster, and everything else,” said Parker.

It’ll be interesting to see if Zhang can get himself in better shape for the rematch to improve enough to win because he’s got to be able to throw more punches for him to have a shot at beating Parker.

Tonight, Zhang looked slower than he’d been for his two fights against Joyce, and it seemed to take a lot out of him just to throw a few shots every round. Ideally, Zhang should come into the rematch in the 270s. In addition to losing weight, Zhang needs to work on his cardio because he can’t afford to be gassing out after three slow-paced rounds like he did tonight.