Deontay Wilder vs Zhilei Zhang reported for June 1 in Saudi Arabia

Deontay Wilder vs Zhilei Zhang reported for June 1 in Saudi Arabia

A heavyweight clash between Deontay Wilder and Zhilei Zhang is being “finalized” for June 1 in Saudi Arabia, according to’s Mike Coppinger. The fight would take place on the undercard of Beterbiev vs Bivol.

Raise your hand if you expected, say, back in November that the first half of 2024 to close with an official Big Heavyweight Fight between Joseph Parker’s leftovers.

Wilder (43-3-1, 42 KO) is coming off of an absolutely wretched performance in defeat to Parker this past December in Saudi Arabia, where the former WBC titleholder looked like a passive shell of his former terrifying self, spending 12 rounds seemingly incapable of unleashing shots.

The question since has been whether or not Wilder, now 38, even wants to fight anymore, but with the sort of money they’re paying him to do so in Saudi Arabia, even if he doesn’t, he’s gonna. Parker won a deservedly wide decision over Wilder, even scoring a 12-0 shutout on one card.

Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KO) is coming off of a closer loss to Parker on March 8, where Parker lifted the interim WBO title from the “Big Bang.” The 40-year-old Chinese southpaw dropped Parker twice, but didn’t have the gas tank to win it over 12 rounds, and Parker edged — again, deservedly — a majority decision in the bout.

On paper, Wilder vs Zhang could be a can’t-miss battle between two brutally heavy hitters, but the upside idea of this fight will only happen if Wilder actually throws punches this time. Zhang isn’t as slippery or crafty as Parker, but Wilder still has something to prove after that performance, because it’s not as if Wilder had never fought heavyweights who can box and move a bit in the past. It’s kind of a make-or-break for Wilder in a reputational sense, and Zhang is 40, so it is for him, too. These two guys have to win this fight to get where they — ostensibly, perhaps, in Wilder’s case — want to be.

There had been talk of an immediate Parker vs Zhang rematch, as Zhang reportedly had the option in the fight contract, but even contractual obligation rematches are only worth what someone will pay to put them on, and with the Saudis controlling the heavyweight division at this point, if they didn’t want Parker vs Zhang 2, it wasn’t going to happen.

The same will apply to the Fury vs Usyk rematch that has been discussed — if their fight comes and goes on May 18 and the Saudis believe after that the biggest money is in, say, Fury vs Joshua, they will push to get that done no matter what, and you can likely expect boxing’s sanctioning bodies to follow the money.

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