Zhilei Zhang is my favorite boxer, for today, anyway. So sue me, for being vocationally inappropriate.
You gotta love Zhang; age 40, a most-often gentle giant at 6-6, 290 pounder, someone who is a role model for long-term patient perseverance.
The left hander fights today, Saturday, Sept 23, in a re-match battle, against another jumbo specimen, Joe Joyce.
I checked in with Terry Lane, co-manager with bro Tommy, of “Big Bang”, who I sometimes call “The Banger,” not really out loud, more so in my head.
Terry, a NY resident, spoke on how this fight came together, the stakes and yes, that heavy weight gain from first fight to second for the 6-5 Joe Joyce (age 37; 15-1, 15 KOs; from England).
How is “The Banger,” his conditioning, his weight, his mindset, headed into this rematch, I asked.
“Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs; lives in NJ) has been focused on this rematch since Joyce enacted it,” Terry said. “Camp was great. Weight is right. He is stronger and sharper than ever.”
OK, we'll take that at face value, even though we never know prior when a fighter might be off, from a lingering injury, or maybe a fight-week cold.
Can you share a synopsis for those interested on the business side, how this rematch came to be?
“Frankly, we wanted the Joyce fight so much, that we had to agree to the rematch clause to get the fight in the first place,” Terry Lane answered. “It was Joe’s right to enact it, and he did. So here we are.”
Last Fight Brought Zhilei Zhang To New Level Of Renown, in US and China
OK…So, the stakes. What does a win get The Banger and company, maybe?
“If Zhang is victorious on September 23rd, it’s hard to say,” Terry Lane said, with admirable honesty. “I think there may be fewer grains of sand on earth than there are scenarios in the heavyweight division.
“We want Tyson Fury, but there is an effort to make Fury-Usyk after Fury v Ngannou. But then there are mandatory from all four sanctioning bodies which play a huge part into what happens next. We will just have to sit back and see.”
I asked Terry Lane for anecdotes, particularly which speak to Zhang's popularity. Yeah, he has grown his profile and fanbase noticeably this year…
“After the last fight, Zhang gets asked for pictures anytime we leave our hotel in London,” the co-promoter stated. “The boxing fans here love him, even if they are backing Joyce.”
He noted that “the last fight's impact, it's hard to put it into words, it brought Zhang to a new stratosphere.”
The athlete is a trending topic on fight day in China, which isn't at all typical for a Chinese boxer.
OK, and what about it, people are seeing how big Joyce is. He was 256 for the first fight, and was 281 on the scale Saturday. Also, Banger is bigger than in first match (287 Friday, was 278 for April bout). What does it mean?
“I was pretty shocked at the weight gain that Joyce showed,” Terry Lane said.
“In April, I was shocked at how skinny he was, and now he is over 25 pounds heavier five months later? This weight fluctuation can’t work for him. At the end of the day, it is heavyweight boxing and anything can happen, but we feel confident!”