Heavyweight boxer Zhilei Zhang has revealed that he was in talks to fight Francis Ngannou in December – before the Cameroonian pulled out of negotiations.
The Chinese heavyweight recorded consecutive wins over Joe Joyce this year, with a devastating right hook earning him victory in their September bout.
It’s seen the 40-year-old become the WBO interim world champion – but will have to wait for Tyson Fury and OIeksandr Usyk to settle their differences before getting the opportunity to unify his title.
It leaves Zhang in a tricky position and in need of an opponent, which he has now claimed could’ve been MMA fighter-turned-boxer Francis Ngannou.
The former UFC heavyweight champion made his first foray into the boxing scene in October, when he lost to Fury via split decision in a thrilling bout in Saudi Arabia.
Zhilei Zhang has revealed that he was in talks to fight Francis Ngannou in December
However, the heavyweight insists that Ngannou ‘didn’t want to’ go ahead with the bout
Ngannou’s only foray into the boxing world came as a decision defeat to Tyson Fury (R)
While the Cameroonian has been tipped to return to the boxing ring, after recently getting a top ten ranking in the heavyweight division, he doesn’t have a future bout booked.
Now, Zhang has claimed that a clash between the two had been in the works before Ngannou’s team eventually pulled out of negotiations.
Speaking to Mail Sport, via FreeBets, Zhang said: ‘There were originally talks to have me fight Ngannou [on December 23] and I was like, “Okay, it’s a walk in the park for me, I’ll take it”.
‘But Ngannou didn’t want to do it. And then it’s what you see. The big names started to come in like Joshua filling the card. And that’s what happened’.
Despite Zhang’s hopes of fighting on December 23rd, the event dubbed the ‘Day of Reckoning’ will now feature the likes of Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder on it.
Joshua will face-off against Otto Wallin while Wilder will take on Joseph Parker in one the most highly-anticipated boxing cards of the year.
‘I believe everyone is busy with their schedule but I’m someone that whoever you put in front of me, I’ll fight. It’s up to [my] team,’ Zhang continued.
‘I think it’s coming [big fight in China] in 2024, people will see something like that. People behind the scenes are working very hard, every day trying to push this and I believe in 2024 we will see a high level world title fight. Everyone is invited.
‘I have a strong feeling that something big is coming and I want everyone to stay tuned. If you’re watching my fight I’m not going to let you down’.
Ngannou stunned the world when he knocked Fury to the canvas back in October
Anthony Joshua will face off against Otto Wallin on the highly-anticipated December 23 card
As previously mentioned, Ngannou’s only fight inside the boxing ring came against heavyweight champion Fury back in October.
Despite expectations that the Gypsy King would steamroll the novice boxer, instead, it was Fury who found himself on the canvas during the fight.
And Zhang has suggested that the British star’s performance was an indication that his mind is ‘not in boxing’ at the minute.
Zhang said: ‘With the performance Fury had against Ngannou, that says a lot about his mindset. I don’t think his mind is in boxing right now.
‘He’s in marketing, he’s in PR. He’s in all this stuff, but he’s not in boxing. You can’t fool training. You have to do it daily.
‘People call me a hypnotist – I can put people to sleep. I don’t mind giving him a good sleep. I think his father is correct, he is declining if his focus is outside of the ring. He could incline again – if he focuses on the ring and the gym’.
Zhang says Fury’s performance against Ngannou showed his mind is ‘not in boxing’
Elsewhere, Zhang also revealed to Mail Sport that he was in talks to fight Anthony Joshua before negotiations eventually broke down.
Speaking to Mail Sport, via FreeBets, Zhang said: ‘It was after his fight with Usyk where I was the chief support fighting Hrgovic after that event.
‘My team is talking to his team and my team even flew to London to meet his people.
‘And I believe what I heard was Eddie [Hearn] liked the idea, but when it comes down to himself or the managers around him, I’m not sure. I really wanted it. That’s what I can tell you’.