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Boxing star Zhilei Zhang has revealed that he was in talks to fight Anthony Joshua before negotiations eventually broke down.
The 40-year-old produced two emphatic performances to hand Joyce his first professional losses however, he’s now revealed he had actually been in talks to fight Joshua at that time.
Zhang suffered defeat against Filip Hrgović in August 2022, on the same night that Joshua was handed a consecutive defeat to Oleksandr Usyk – which left the Brit at a crossroads in his career.
Now, the Chinese heavyweight claims that his teams were in talk with Joshua’s over a potential bout – as both stars looked to bounce back from a disappointing defeat.
Zhilei Zhang has revealed that he was in talks to fight Anthony Joshua before negotiations eventually broke down
Zhang claims his team flew out to London to negotiate a fight with Joshua but the potential bout eventually collapsed
Zhang claimed the bout was tipped to happen after his defeat to Filip Hrgovic (R)
Speaking to Mail Sport, via Free Bets, 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.
‘We had multiple communications between our team and his team about me fighting him. Maybe we can [fight] again in in the future, but the future [is] unknown.’
Since both men were dealt defeats in Saudi Arabia back in August last year, Zhang has excelled in his career – after the convincing wins over Joyce in April and September.
Meanwhile, Joshua has also recorded two wins since then. The first was an unconvincing decision victory over Jermaine Franklin before he knocked out Robert Helenius – who stepped in on late notice, just days before the bout.
Had a bout between Zhang and Joshua come to fruition, it would not be the first time that the two heavyweights had shared the ring together.
They previously crossed paths back at amateur level during the 2012 Olympics in London – where Zhang was beaten by Joshua on points in the quarter-finals.
Reflecting on that match-up, Zhang said: ‘That fight was in 2012 in London. He represented the host country.
‘I knew I had to knock him out to win that fight, just because he [was] from London. If you look at the fight, he dropped me in the third round, but if you look closely he was stepping on my foot and I was not able to get my foot out.
Zhang has since gone on to beat British star Joe Joyce (L) in consecutive bouts
Joshua had back-to-back defeats against Oleksandr Usyk (R) when Zhang’s team supposedly were in talks to organise a heavyweight clash
‘That’s how the knock down happened. Eventually I lost to a close decision and it’s OK to me because it’s just not a big deal’.
While a professional bout with Joshua was once on the cards, Zhang, the WBO interim world champion is confirmed as mandatory challenger for that belt.
After victory over Joyce in September, he called out Tyson Fury, asking the crowd: ‘Do you want me to shut him up?’
However, he may have to wait for the Gypsy King and Usyk to sort out who holds all the titles but even at 40 he looks more sprightly by every fight.