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The Big Bang Attacks: The Return of Zhang Zhilei
By: Kirk Jackson
The heavyweight star from China intends on leaving a “Bang” in his return bout this weekend after a long time stretch of inactivity.
Boxing Insider caught up with Zhang Zhilei (20-0, 16 KO’s) to gather his thoughts about his upcoming return bout. After experiencing 14 months of inactivity, Zhilei is slated to face Andriy Rudenko (32-6, 20 KO’s) in a ten round contest at the Casino de Monte-Carlo on Saturday November 30, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
• Nickname – Big Bang
• Date of Birth – May 2, 1983
• Division – Heavyweight
• Stance – Southpaw
• Hometown – Zhengzhou, Henan, China
• Record – 20-0 (16 KO’s)
• Zhilei made his professional debut on August 8, 2014 on ESPN
• Zhilei captured two consecutive gold medals at the China National Games
• To pursue his dream of becoming the first-ever professional Chinese Heavyweight champion, Zhilei forfeited his Chinese national amateur status and broke from government dependency
• Before Zhilei considered boxing, he had dreams of becoming a professional canoe sprinter
Awards and Accomplishments:
• WBO Oriental Heavyweight Title (2017)
• Two-time Olympian
• Gold Medalist – Asian Amateur Boxing Championships (2009)
• Silver Medalist – 2008 Olympic Games (2008)
• Bronze Medalist – World Championships (2007)
• Silver Medalist – Asian Amateur Boxing Championships (2007)
• Bronze Medalist – World Championships (2007)
• Won eight medals in total spanning over the Olympic Championships, World Championships, Asian Games and Asian Championships
The Interview with Boxing Insider:
Boxing Insider (BI): How was your fight camp, how are you feeling?
Zhang Zhilei (ZZ): My camp went well. I trained very hard and I’m dedicated. I have sparring partners flying in to give me solid work. I feel great.
(BI): Entering this fight having last fought in September of 2018, are there things you do differently in training camp to prepare your body after a long lay-off, or is it business as usual?
(ZZ): I have been working out during my long lay-off. This training camp we focus on keeping improving my craft and stamina, just like before.
(BI): Can you talk about your experience living, training in New Jersey and can you talk about your experiences training and living with (Meng) Fanlong?
(ZZ): I got used to Jersey life. It’s really helpful to have someone like Fanlong with me. We learn from and encourage each other in the gym. We were team mates back in 2009 and have become like brother.
(BI): Can you expand on your living situation; are you living full-time in New Jersey? How often do you go back to visit home?
(ZZ): I live full time in New Jersey. My wife and son are in China. I have to stay here to in order to work hard and consistently. I go home once or twice a year to see my family.
(BI): This upcoming fight was supposed to be against Sergey Kuzmin, – were you able to find a replacement?
(ZZ): Yes Andriy Rudenko. He’s a very good boxer and I respect him a lot for taking this fight in such a short notice.
(BI): How does that affect your preparation and state of mind – not knowing to expect?
(ZZ): This doesn’t affect me at all. I have different sparring partners throughout the camp and I’m ready for any situation.
(BI): Your fight is scheduled for Monaco next Saturday, what is your preparation process for acclimation into the environment; weather, food – things of that nature?
(ZZ): I’ll arrive 7 days before the fight so I’ll try to blend in the environment when I get there.
(BI): Can you describe your hometown? What were some of your experiences growing up?
(ZZ): I grew up in Shenqiu City. There’s nothing special about it, as any regular cities in China, but I love my hometown.
(BI): You’re college educated, which isn’t something we normally see with professional fighters. How did boxing affect your pursuit of your education? Did your search of education affect your focus on boxing?
(ZZ): I majored in sport training in university. I think a person should receive good education no matter what kind of identity he has. Boxing is my job and my passion that’s why I searched education related to boxing.
(BI): Do you apply some of the lessons and experiences from higher education to your craft as a professional boxer?
(ZZ): Boxing can’t be learnt behind the desk. It’s done in the gym. But education helps me to think smartly outside of the ring.
(BI): Can you provide greater insight as to how you got into boxing? What attracted you to the sport and was there a specific moment when you realized this is what you want to do?
(ZZ): It’s more of a combination of my love for the sport and the guidance from my then coach. I started boxing just to get in shape. But after winning a national gold medal in 2 years made me want to take this as a career.
(BI): Growing up, you idolized Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. Can you expand on their influence and what you like specifically about each fighter?
(ZZ): They are pure fighters. They are good for the sport and have been, and will always be recognized as idols.
(BI): Are they still your favorite fighters currently and if not who?
(ZZ): Yes they still are.
(BI): Anyone currently fighting that impresses you?
(ZZ): (Vasyl) Lomachenko and (Meng) Fanlong.
(BI): Can you give me a list of your pound-for-pound top five fighters?
(ZZ): Lomachenko, (Deontay) Wilder, (Canelo) Alvarez, (Terence) Crawford and myself.
(BI): Excluding yourself, who is the best heavyweight currently fighting?
(BI): Can you speak on your experiences as an Olympian and the transition from amateur to professional?
(ZZ): Being an Olympian taught me the valuable concept of self-discipline. Transitioning has been hard in the beginning but also a lot of fun. I think I made the transition with my coach Shaun George, who was an outstanding boxer himself, then hired by Chinese national team. He knows both and he’s really good at what he does.
(BI): Can you provide insight on how boxing is received in China? Do you see the sport growing with the success of your National Olympic Teams and with recent success of fighters on the professional level?
(ZZ): It’s the fastest growing sport. You can see movies, TV series, reality shows and commercials about boxing everywhere. You just don’t see a heavyweight champion. That’s why I’m so hungry to be the one.
(BI): Do you have a list of specific goals you want to accomplish before calling it a career?
(ZZ): One goal, the heavyweight champion of the world.
(BI): Can you speak on the importance of achieving your dream of winning a world title, becoming the first Chinese heavyweight champion of the world?
(ZZ): I think everybody knows how massive Chinese market is and how few Chinese boxers are above featherweight. I’m going to change a lot of things of the sport, as well as sport in general, if I become the heavyweight champion of the world.
(BI): Have you discussed a timeframe or mapped out a plan for how long you intend on boxing?
(ZZ): I feel like I’m at my peak right now. I can keep fighting.
(BI): The shelf life of heavyweight fighters usually extends further compared to other weight classes. With your physical attributes and skill set, do you believe you can take your time and wait for the right situation for a world title shot? Or do you have the approach of fighting with a high sense of urgency in regards to a busy schedule?
(ZZ): I think time will come very soon. I have been looking to fight contenders all the years. As long as I stay focused, time will come very soon.
(BI): You faced Anthony Joshua in the 2012 Olympics, can you speak on that experience and your progression as a fighter since then? Can you speak on his progression as a fighter?
(ZZ): I made no excuse for that loss. He was a better man of that night. But thinking back, I went in the fight with wrong strategy as I was told that I had to knock him out to win. I’m happy to see him doing good and contributing to the sport of boxing. I wish him the best for the Ruiz fight.
(BI): Do you have a list of names of who you would like to fight?
(ZZ): (Joe) Joyce, (Dereck) Chisora, (Adam) Kownacki and (Jarrell) Miller. I respect all these guys and I’m friendly with some of them. I want to fight them because of respect. Nothing personal.
(BI): From your experiences, what is the best thing about being a fighter?
(ZZ): It’s fantastic being a fighter. It has taught me so many things I can’t really say what’s the best of it. I encourage all the kids and teenagers out there to try out the sport. It may change your life in a positive way.
(BI): What are your greatest traits as a fighter?
(ZZ): I’m a heavy handed, skilled, smart southpaw.
(BI): What are some of the cons to being a fighter; something that may not necessarily be discussed often enough?
(ZZ): Everything has its cons. I want people to look at boxing as a positive, life-changing sport that will teach people a lot of things you can’t learn from everyday life.
(BI): How did you get the name Big Bang?
(ZZ): It’s the beginning of universe. I’m the first from my country. And I’m big.
(BI): Why is Chinese representation in boxing important to you?
(ZZ): I’m proud to fight for my country. That’s why I have national flag on my truck. China supports me and I want to make my people proud too.
(BI): Can you please speak on the importance of annual Hong Kong Dragon about Festival held in Queens, New York.
(ZZ): It’s a great annual event. Dragon Bout is symbolic for Chinese culture and is a lot of fun too.
(BI): Do you have a message for your fans of boxing?
(ZZ): Thank you guys for the support. Please tune in on November 30 on DAZN for my fights. It’s going to be exciting.
UFC Fight Night 157: Weili Zhang Stops Jessica Andrade to Claim UFC Strawweight Title
By: Jesse Donathan
For many fans in North America, UFC Fight Night 157’s 3 am EST preliminary card start time didn’t exactly tap into the hearts and minds of the mixed martial arts community. With a roster packed full of fighters many casual fans simply have never heard of, more than a few followers of the faith were at home, in the bed, dreaming of next week’s UFC 242 Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier showdown.
It only took Black Tiger Fight Club representative Weili “Magnum” Zhang 42-seconds to become the UFC’s new 115-pound Strawweight Champion in dispatching Jessica Andrade by technical knockout in front of an ecstatic Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre crowd in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China this weekend on ESPN+. It was a historical moment for Zhang and the Chinese people and a potentially lucrative one for the UFC later down the line as Asia’s largest martial arts market was just given a reason to go all in and celebrate.
The fight started off with the pugilists finding each other easily, Zhang landing a pair of inside leg kicks before circling out to re-adjust. Zhang would again work the inside leg kick, flicking her jab out in order to maintain distance and give the advancing Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade something to think about. The two would briefly stand in front of each other and trade shots, the distinct audible sound of punches finding their mark noticeable to those perceptive enough to pick up on it.
Pressing forward, looking for the kill shot, Andrade would recklessly blitz Zhang with her chin up and hands down in an ill-fated attempt to make the challenger fight off of her backfoot in retreat, catching a right hook in the process that rang the now former Brazilian champions bell.
With her back against the cage and a stunned Andrade attempting to catch her bearings, Zhang would land a knee followed up with a number of stinging elbows before securing the Muay Thai clinch and expertly transitioning between repeated knee and elbow strikes to her trapped opponent. In trouble, Andrade would attempt to flee the onslaught with Zhang giving chase in an offensive onslaught reminiscent of Vitor Belfort versus Wanderlei Silva at UFC 17.5 – Ultimate Brazil in 1998.
Chased across the Octagon with Zhang in hot pursuit, it wouldn’t take long before Andrade ran out of real estate and found herself trapped against the fence with “Magnum” looking for the finish. With Andrade helplessly crumbled on the canvas, referee Leon Roberts was forced to intervene, calling a halt to the contest and preventing the former Brazilian champion from taking any further damage in route to Weili Zhang becoming the UFC’s first Chinese champion.
For a country of 1.4-billion people that has a culture that revers martial arts like China, Weili Zhang’s victory at UFC Fight Night 157 has tremendous implications for the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization who recently opened a UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai billed as one of the largest and most advanced in the word.
China is a tremendous financial market for the organization to dip into in their quest to become a global mixed martial arts organization and with Zhang’s victory this past weekend the UFC is well on their way to dominating the Asian market. Weili Zhang offers the Chinese people a foot in the door to the world of mixed martial arts and in the process, it is entirely possible Zhang is on her way to Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor-esk superstar status should she manage to defend the belt for any meaningful period of time.
Following her UFC Fight Night 157 TKO victory, UFC President Dana White expressed an interest to have Zhang fight stateside in the U.S., prompting the newly minted champion to openly discuss the VISA problems many of her cornermen are facing in coming to the United States in a small glimpse of the red tape involved in being a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Not the first or last time such problems have surfaced in MMA, with the obligations facing UFC champions Zhang will likely be operating on a skeleton crew until the problems are ultimately ironed out for good which could take some months or even years in some cases.
Zhilei Zhang, Derrick Webster & Prince Badi Ajamu Win in AC
by: Ken Hissner
Mis Downing Promotions in Association with Roy Jones, Jr’s Square Ring Promotions put together a six bout show at the Claridge Hotel & Casino and Radisson Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, Saturday night with a nine bout card. Rene Aiken was matchmaker.
Chinese 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist heavyweight southpaw Zhilei Zhang, 17-0 (13), now out of Las Vegas, NV, stopped Nick “2 Gunz” Guivas, 13-8-2 (9), of Topeka, KS, at 2:43 of the first round of a scheduled 10.
In the opening round Zhang used a jab and right hook keeping Guivas on the defense rarely throwing a punch. Zhang dropped Guivas in his own corner with a right hook body shot. Shortly later another Zhang right hook this time to the head and down went Guivas for the second time as referee Shada’ Murdaugh waved it off. Guivas came in for a pay day and Zhang needs to step up the competition.
In the Main Event super middleweight southpaw Derrick “Take It to the Bank” Webster, 24-1 (13), of Glassboro, NJ, stopped Lamar “King of Pain” Harris, 9-14-4 (5), of St. Louis, MO., at 0:28 of the second round.
In the first round Harris came out fast until several Webster jab’s hit him in the face followed by a straight left to the head. A right hook from Webster spun Harris a full 360 degrees. A follow-up combination from Webster dropped Harris who got to his feet as referee Murdaugh gave him the 8 count as the bell sounded ending the round. In the second round a flurry of punches from Webster had Harris out on his feet causing referee Shada’ Murdaugh to call a halt. Webster needs to step up the competition.
In the co-feature cruiserweight “The Boxing” Prince Badi Ajamu, 28-3-1 (15), of Camden, NJ, returned after 8 years, to win a lack luster decision over Puerto Rico’s Edgar Perez, 7-22 (3), of Chicago, IL, over 8 rounds.
In the first round Ajamu used an effective jab to the midsection keeping Perez at bay. It was a feeling out round. In the second round Ajamu landed a 3-punch combination to the body and head of Perez. A jab by Ajamu pushed Perez back several steps. In the third round Ajamuj landed half a dozen punches mostly to the body of Perez putting Perez against the ropes. Ajamuj landed another 3-punch body shot bringing the defense of Perez down. In the fourth round Ajamuj landed half a dozen unanswered punches from Perez. It was nothing more than a sparring match.
In the fifth round Ajamuj landed eight light punches as Perez continued fighting a survival fight. Ajamuj continued to work the flabby body of Perez. Near the end of the round Ajamuj got Perez upset causing the best exchange of the fight. In the sixth round Perez used and effective jab as Ajamuj was in a peek-a-boo defense. In the seventh round they continued to go through the motions. In the eighth and final round of a real snoozer it finally came to an end. Referee Gonzales had little to do with few clinches.
Judges Pasquale and Page had it 80-72 while Barnes scored it 79-73. This writer had it 80-72.
Middleweight Shady Gamhour, 4-0 (3), of Sweden living in Pensacola, FL, knocked out Jessie Singletary, 0-3, of D.C., at 1:43 of the first round.
In the opening round Singletary came out throwing punches while Gamhour was using his jab. Suddenly a lead right hand from Gamhour on the chin of Singletary and down he went for the count from referee Ricky Gonzales. Former world champion Roy Jones, Jr., worked the corner of Gamhour.
Cruiserweight Mike “Super Beast” Hilton, 7-0 (6), of Trenton, NJ, was fortunate to get a decision over Willis “The Prophet” Lockett, 4-12-6 (5), of Takoma Park, MD, in a foul filled 6 rounds.
In the first round Lockett is throwing more punches with little power while Hilton hurts him every time he lands a punch mostly to the body. In the second round Hilton landed a 3-punch combination as Lockett came in low. Hilton got a warning from referee Glover for pushing Lockett’s head down. Lockett outworked Hilton in the round. In the third round a lead overhand right from Lockett landed on the head of Hilton to the crowd’s delight. Both fighters tumbled to the canvas. Lockett continues to outwork Hilton who was too busy loading up and throwing little.
In the fourth round after both fighters missed wild left hooks Lockett landed a lead right to the midsection of Hilton. Lockett continues to outwork Hilton. In the fifth round Hilton was missing with wild punches until he finally landed a right driving Lockett to the ropes. Hilton warned for pushing by referee Glover. Hilton landed a power punch to the body of Lockett hurting him. There was much too much holding in the round. Both fighters looked exhausted. In the sixth and final round Lockett landed a left hook to the head of Hilton. Hilton landed a low left south of the border putting Lockett on the canvas. Referee Glover gave him but 30 seconds to re-coup. Again Hilton landed a low right hand putting Lockett on the canvas for another 10 second rest from the referee Glover who doesn’t understand the fouled fighter can take up to five minutes to re-coup.
Judge’s scores were Barnes 60-54, Pasquale 60-53 and Page 58-56. This writer had it 57-57.
In the opening bout Cruiserweight southpaw Lamont “Lay Em Down” McLaughlin, 0-2 (0), of Philly, was knocked out by Tahlik Taylor, 2-7 (0), of Freeport, NJ, at 0:31 of the first round of a scheduled 4.
In the opening round McLaughlin came at Taylor who countered with a right hand and down went McLaughlin for the count from referee Mary Glover. The crowd loved it as Taylor won his second fight in nine starts.
Mis Downing Promotions will return November 4th.
Zhang, Webster, Ajamu and Cauthen at Claridge in AC Saturday
By: Ken Hissner
Mis Downing Promotions and Square Ring Promotions will have a nine bout card at the Claridge Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, Saturday night! In a ten round boutunbeaten 2008 Olympic heavyweight Silver Medalist from China southpaw Zhilei “Big Bang” Zhang, 16-0 (12), who has scored nine knockouts in his last ten fights. He is No. 13 in the WBO rankings. His opponent is Nick “2 Gunz” Guivas, 13-7-2 (9), out of Topeka, KS.
Headlining in an eight round bout is Glassboro, NJ, Super middleweight southpaw Derrick “TakeIt to the Bank” Webster, 23-1 (12), seeking a ranking in one of the four organizations taking on Lamar Harris, 9-13-4 (5), of St. Louis, MO, in an eight round bout.
In the co-feature 6 round bout returning to the ring after an eight year layoff and holder of the WBC Continental Americas, WBO NABO, World Boxing Foundation, CABOFE, IBC Inter-Continental and PA State titles is Camden, NJ, cruiserweight Prince BadiAjamu, 27-3-1 (15), who won eight of his last nine fights only losing to Roy Jones, Jr., taking on Edgar Perez, 7-21 (3), of Chicago, IL. Perez holds a win over Atlantic City’s Lavarn “Baby Bowe” Harvell, who was 13-0 at the time. “What better way to bring the attention to child abduction which is a big problem in this country than to be in the ring and get this message out there”. He would also like a rematch with Jones who as co-promoter will be in attendance.
Another match-up of two NJ middleweights is former Olympian Terrance “Heat” Cauthen, 36-8 (9), of Trenton, NJ, after a five year absence taking on Nick Valliere, 5-2 (2), of Forked River, NJ. Trenton’s cruiserweight Mike Hilton, 6-0 (6)trying to make it seven straight ko’s against Willis Lockett, 14-20-6 (5), of Takoma Park, MD, who holds a win over Wildwood, NJ, boxer Chuck “The Professor” Mussachio.Camden, NJ, unbeaten featherweight Vidal Rivera, 6-0 (4), is listed against tba. These three are over six rounds. In four round bouts Newark, NJ, super lightweight Dion Richadson, 3-1 (2), meets FelipNazario, 0-7, of the Bronx, NY. Shady Gamhour, 1-0 (1), of Pensacola, FL, meets Jesse Singletary, 0-2, of D.C. and Philly cruiserweight Lamont McLaughlin, 0-1, meets Tahlik Taylor, 1-7, of Freeport, NY.
There will be a press conference at 5pm Thursday at the Flagship Hotel, 60 North Main Avenue in Atlantic City. The first bout Saturday will be at 7pm.