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Zhilei Zhang gets late replacement opponent for Canelo Alvarez fight card

Zhilei Zhang will no longer be facing Filip Hrgovic who pulled out of the fight on Monday.

In what is always considered one of the two biggest weekends in boxing, we are approaching Cinco de Mayo weekend, which can only mean one thing; a Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (57-1-2) fight is scheduled. If you’re a fighter that is trying to get some shine on their career, this is the card to be on, which brings us to the undefeated Chinese heavyweight contender Zhilei Zhang (23-0-1)

Zhang fits the description of the current crop of heavyweights as he is 6’6” and weighs over 250 pounds. He is a decorated amateur who won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and was eliminated in the 2012 Olympic quarter-finals by the former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (24-2). A defeat that remains fresh on his mind until the day comes when he has the opportunity to avenge his loss.

Who is Zhilei Zhang, and how did he get into the sport of boxing? “My family lives in China, and I came here a few years ago to fight. I live, train and fight here in the U.S, but I go back to visit (China) at times. China has been on the fast track for the past 30 years to include sports.”

Zhang continued, “Growing up, I was a Kayaking athlete, but I turned to boxing at a very young age. It was more of a coincidence as my body got too big for that little boat, so I just turned to boxing. If anyone is interested in visiting China, you are all welcome,” said the 39-year-old Zhang to FanSided, who celebrated his birthday on Monday.

Zhilei Zhang will now face Scott Alexander on the Canelo Alvarez Fight Card.

When I read about the loss to Anthony Joshua, it struck my curiosity to ask about that fight since Joshua has been to the mountain top, so to speak, and Zhang is still climbing up for his shot. Zhang told FanSided, “I really want to do it again as it is unfinished business. I knew he was from the host country (London), so it had to be a knockout for me to win. My mentality changed as when you look for the knockout, it may not happen. So, wrong strategy and wrong mentality. He was the better man that night. Fighting him again is what has kept me motivated.”

When Zhang is scheduled to fight in a venue, a funny thing happens regardless of his placement; tons of fans, especially those who are Chinese or of Chinese descent, come to support him and make it known. That rang true last November when he fought Craig Lewis (14-5-1) at the Hulu Theater inside the Madison Square Garden. Zhang simply said, “Maybe they just like me and my personality” (Laughs) when asked about the fan support he gets at these fights.

While preparing for this camp, Zhang decided to take his whole team to Florida to prepare for his fight against Filip Hrgovic (14-0), an IBF title eliminator. A fight that four other heavyweights turned down but Zhang did not hesitate to take. As fight week approached, news came out on BoxingScene.com that Hrgovic pulled out of the fight due to his father passing away a few weeks back. Zhang could have just gone back home and waited to reschedule, but he did not want to waste the training camp he had just finished going through.

Burning the midnight oil, so to speak, Zhang’s team worked hard to try and salvage the fight date. They went through the process with the Nevada State Commission of submitting names and getting rejected until finally, they were able to get Scott Alexander (16-4-2).

Alexander wasn’t the opponent Zhang trained for, but the hope is that he presents a similar style that will prepare him for the Hrgovic fight when it gets rescheduled. It’s never a dull moment in boxing, but Zhang summoned it when he told FanSided, “I am very well prepared, and although I can’t promise the outcome as anything can happen, it will be a great fight. Tune into my fight on DAZN.”

The Ultimate Fighter returns on May 3 and can be watched on ESPN+ every Tuesday.

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