Zhang was ‘very close’ to Fury fight | Tyson remains ‘first target’

Daily News
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Tyson Fury is the “first target” for Zhilei Zhang if he beats Joe Joyce again as the Chinese heavyweight was ‘very close’ to securing a fight with the WBC champion.

Zhang shattered Joyce’s unbeaten record with a sixth round stoppage in April and he is returning to London for a rematch at The AO Arena on Saturday.

If Zhang delivers a repeat victory then he will resume his pursuit of Fury after talks for a world title clash were cut short when Joyce triggered an immediate rematch.

“I was little bit disappointed because I was very, very close to making that Tyson Fury fight happen, right before Joe activated the rematch clause,” said Zhang.

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Tyson Fury appeared to rule out a unification bout with Oleksandr Usyk after claiming he is fighting for money and not legacy

“But we had this in the contract. I had to sign the rematch clause in order to get to the first fight. So I will do whatever is right which is the rematch.”

Zhang’s co-manager Terry Lane believes the big-hitting southpaw will prove himself as one of the elite fighters in his weight class.

“I think a win for Zhilei on Saturday really separates out the heavyweight division,” Lane told Sky Sports. “If he is victorious, you really have Fury, Usyk and Zhang on top. Everyone else will be far, far beneath.

“If Zhilei wins, as we expect him to again, Fury is our first target.

“We will have to sit back and see what fights get made – and perhaps more importantly, which fights do not get made.

“This division is just a constant game of ‘musical chairs’.”

Joe Joyce's eye was damaged in the Zhilei Zhang fight, but not fractured

Image: Joe Joyce sustained a badly swollen eye that prompted the referee to wave the fight off

Zhang repeatedly connected with heavy shots in the first fight, causing swelling above Joyce’s right eye that forced the referee to signal the stoppage.

“I would say this is instinct because in the first fight I had zero idea his eye would end up like that,” said Zhang while discussing his tactics against Joyce.

“That exposed that weakness. So I would be a fool if I don’t continue exploiting that.”

Zhang, like Joyce, is an Olympic silver medallist, although his attempts to claim a second medal at the 2012 Games were ended by a defeat to Anthony Joshua.

Renewing that rivalry with Joshua in the professional ranks is also another ambition for Zhang.

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Tyson Fury is not optimistic about finally sharing the ring with British rival Anthony Joshua

“The option’s always there. I actually lost to him in London and I’m here again in London so I would love to explore that option,” he said.

“Actually the option has always been there because right before the first fight with Joe Joyce we touched [on] that with their team. They refused. But I think the option’s still there.”

Asked why the Joshua fight did not materialise, Zhang added: “I think that’s a question you can answer. My team flew to London to negotiate and talk about everything.

“That’s what I heard, they didn’t want to fight. As far as the reason, I lost to Hrgovic, he lost to Usyk – that would be a good fight, but maybe he was not in the right position to fight me. I have no idea.”

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