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.
« 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’. »
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.
« 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. »