Zhilei Zhang is in the same position he’d been in years past, but not really. The 40 year old lefty heavyweight from China is waiting to see how chips fall, and what his next assignment will be.
Before, the waiting could seem interminable. Terry Lane, who promotes ZZ with brother Tommy, admitted as much in a chat after the Zhang handling of Joe Joyce in the Sept 23 rematch between the heavies.
“Life is full of peaks and valleys,” Terry Lane told NYF. “There were times for both Zhilei Zhang and me where we thought about getting out of boxing completely. We were just disenchanted by the business.
Terry Lane Gives Props To Brother Tommy
“If it were not for my brother, I would be out. And Tommy also helped get ZZ and me in a place to succeed in boxing. Tommy deserves a great deal of credit for putting us all in this position.”
So, I had to check in with Tommy.
“I’m struggling to find the words to explain this,” Tommy Lane said.
“When we first started in the business, we were very young and naive, but I always knew I wanted to be in the professional boxing business.”
The son of the iconic referee Mills Lane continued: “I grew up loving the sport and idolizing the fighters, so I do have a deep passion of it, and you must have that to make it in this business.
“We truly learned on the job, and while it wasn’t easy, there is no better way to learn then learning first hand and sometimes the hard way. I felt we gained a wealth of knowledge that I did not want to give up on, even when the going got tough.”
Originally the Lanes were aligned with Dino Duva in working with Zhilei Zhang.
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Dino had a deal with Roc Nation, which was trying its hand at the boxing business.
That experiment didn’t really get off the runway, and the alliance floundered, because Roc didn’t know what it didn’t know.
Roc fighters had a hard time gaining traction because they didn’t run many shows, so dates were infrequent.
And so time passed, from when Duva and the Lanes introduced a future player in the division in 2014.
Zhilei Zhang wasn’t old then, but the understanding was he’d need a few years to build the resume and skill set.
Years can seem real long when things aren’t popping, though.
Lots of pondering happened when Zhang faced Jerry Forrest in 2021, and had a health scare. He’d eked out only a draw after knocking Forrest down three times, followed by a stamina fade.
Tommy thinks about some of those dead zone periods, of Zhang fighting journeymen types simply to get some work in when bigger picture plans fell out.
“The other part of me hates to be defeated, and I was not going to allow some rotten sons of bitches spit me out of what I love,” he stated.
“Boxing is full of bad people, and you have to be hard nosed, and eyes wide open, when navigating the industry. I always told myself, ‘Lanes might not win every battle, but we do win every war.’ There is a lot of family pride that gets me out of bed on the tough mornings. I always knew we were representing my fathers’ good name, so that was a driving force as well.”
That which doesn’t kill you, right? The grind made it hard to see light at times, so Tommy would supply some rays when Terry was ready to ditch the dream, get a “real job.”
“Boxing is also full of really great people, and when you get lucky and find them it makes it all worth it,” Tommy told NYFIGHTS. “The team we have is my family. Literally Terry, lol, Zhilei Zhang, Kurt Li, trainer Shaun George and attorney Scott Shafer are people that I would trust with my life. When the good guys find each other and unite- it’s ‘Katy bar the door.’’’
Tommy summed up what’s kept him from hitting the eject button. “It’s love for the sport, competitiveness, and pride that keeps me at it. Failure was never an option!”
So, that team moves forward, with momentum aplenty. “Last Wednesday, we had a long meeting with George Warren discussing the various the scenarios in the heavyweight division – and there are so many,” Terry Lane said. “He did express that he thinks the Usyk v Fury fight will be made, so we talked about what we would do if that were the case.
“Zhilei Zhang is 40, and doesn’t want to just sit and wait,” Terry said. “I think there are still some exciting options in the meantime, but if Usyk v Fury doesn’t get made, we want Tyson Fury- and it can be made.”