Wednesday, June 19, 2024
spot_img

Deontay Wilder vs. Zhilei Zhang fight predictions, start time, odds, preview, undercard, expert picks

When Deontay Wilder and Zhilei Zhang meet in the ring in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, they’ll do so knowing the situation could be do or die for their championship hopes. Two of the heavyweight division’s most powerful punchers, Wilder and Zhang both enter their fight coming off a loss in their most recent outing, knocking them down the ladder in boxing’s glamour division.

In an interesting twist, both Wilder and Zhang’s most recent loss came at the hands of Joseph Parker, who entered the ring as an underdog in both fights. Parker now sits above both men in the heavyweight division, which is in something of a boom period following Oleksandr Usyk’s recent win over Tyson Fury to become the division’s first four-belt undisputed champion.

Wilder is hoping to earn a shot at one of those championships, having previously held the WBC championship from 2015 to 2020,  after he suffered a knockout loss to Fury.

Wilder ranks among the hardest pound-for-pound punchers in boxing history, scoring 41 knockouts in his 42 career victories. That power wasn’t able to put Fury away in their three fights, where Wilder managed a split draw before being stopped twice. The Parker fight raised new concerns for Wilder as he did not fight aggressively, threw very few punches and looked generally uninterested in being in the fight en route to losing by scores of 118-111, 118-110 and 120-108.

“I’m very confident in what I’ve been stating,” Wilder said at the final press conference this week. “I’m very excited to be working alongside Eddie, we haven’t had the best of relationships in the past, but the thing about time is time brings about changes and I’ve been a part of changes. At this period in time, we’re like a warrior’s drum, with one beat and one sound, and on this left side [with his four teammates in the 5 x 5 event] you can feel this energy that we’re not playing no games. We come to win and we come to knock them out. The five on five, we’re going on a five-man sweep and I’m looking forward to Saturday night.”

That same level of passivity and lack of fire could spell disaster for Wilder against a fighter like Zhang, who has plenty of pop of his own and loves to let his hands go early in fights. In 26 career victories, Zhang has stopped 21 opponents.

After going undefeated in his first 25 professional bouts, Zhang finally tasted defeat when he lost a somewhat controversial decision to Filip Hrgovic in August 2022. Zhang built on that loss by knocking out Joe Joyce to win the WBO interim title, retaining the belt with another knockout in the rematch.

Zhang’s fight with Parker also exposed some of his Zhang’s flaws, mostly in his tendency to run out of steam at various points in the fight. Multiple fights have shown Zhang to fade in the later rounds, making for an interesting contrast between his early aggression tendency to fade late against Wilder’s recent inability to pull the trigger.

There are a few other notable fights on the card, including another heavyweight showdown when Filip Hrgovic takes on Daniel Dubois for the vacant IBF interim championship. Hrgovic has long been the IBF mandatory challenger and was under the impression that the fight with Dubois would be for the IBF world title after the sanctioning body stated they would strip the Usyk vs. Fury winner if they went ahead with the contractually obligated rematch rather than defend against Hrgovic.

Instead, the IBF is taking their time to consider whether to grant Usyk an exemption for the Fury rematch. If they do proceed with stripping Usyk, the winner of Hrgovic vs. Dubois would presumably be elevated to world champion.

WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitrii Bivol was originally slated to headline the card against IBF, WBO and WBC champion Artur Beterbiev in a fight to crown an undisputed champion. After Beterbiev was forced out of the fight due to injury, Bivol chose to remain on the card and will defend his title against undefeated Malik Zinad.

The other title fight on the card sees the WBA featherweight crown up for grabs when champion Raymond Ford takes on Nick Ball. Ford, 25, secured the title in March with a stunning 12th-round knockout of Otabek Kholmatov. He’s undefeated at 15-0-1 with eight stoppages to date. Ball, meanwhile, fought Rey Vargas to a draw in March while attempting to claim the WBC title in the division. Now, the 27-year-old gets another chance at gold.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the undercard with the latest odds before getting to a prediction and expert pick on the main event.

Wilder vs. Zhang fight card, odds

Favorite Underdog Weight class

Zhilei Zhang -150

Deontay Wilder +125

Heavyweights

Filip Hrgovic -250

Daniel Dubois +200

Vacant interim IBF heavyweight title

Dmitrii Bivol (c) -3000

Malik Zinad +1400

WBA light heavyweight title

Raymond Ford (c) -160

Nick Ball +130

WBA featherweight title

Hamzah Sheeraz -225

Austin Williams +180

Middleweights

Craig Richards -160

Willy Hutchinson +130

Light heavyweights

Viewing information

  • Date: June 1 | Location: Kingdom Arena — Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Start time: 2 p.m. ET
  • How to watch: DAZN PPV, PPV.com | Price: $69.99  
  • Prediction

    Fights are rarely more difficult to predict than Wilver vs. Zhang. That is because we simply don’t know which version of Wilder is going to show up. Wilder has better speed and better power than Zhang, but that means nothing if Wilder approaches this fight the same way he did against Parker. Zhang at least threw at Parker and scored two knockdowns that kept the final scorecards close while Wilder only threw 17 punches per round and landed 39 the entire fight.

    If Wilder is ready to go and really has found his desire again, he’s a fairly easy choice to do what he had always done and put Zhang down and out with an explosive shot. If Wilder doesn’t have that fire, Zhang will put the pressure on early and pile up rounds to build a comfortable lead. But will that lead hold up if his tank runs dry and he becomes an open target for a Wilder right hand?

    Everything is a guess at this point but it keeps sticking out that Wilder admitted he struggled to pull the trigger against Parker and that’s not usually a good sign in the later stages of a fighter’s career. Pick: Zhilei Zhang via UD

    Related articles

    Share article

    Latest articles

    Newsletter

    Subscribe to stay updated.