Zhilei Zhang claims he WAS in negotiations to box Francis Ngannou in December

Chinese heavyweight boxer Zhilei Zhang recently disclosed that negotiations were underway for a December showdown with Francis Ngannou. However, the much-anticipated clash failed to materialize as the MMA-turned-boxer Ngannou opted not to proceed with the bout.

Zhang, coming off consecutive victories over Joe Joyce, secured the WBO interim world champion title with a powerful right hook in his September bout. Currently awaiting a chance to unify his title, Zhang found himself in need of an opponent, leading to discussions about a potential matchup with Ngannou.

Ngannou, the former UFC heavyweight champion, transitioned to boxing and faced Tyson Fury in October, experiencing a decision defeat in a thrilling contest in Saudi Arabia. Despite speculation about Ngannou’s return to the boxing ring, no future bout has been confirmed.

In an interview with Mail Sport, Zhang expressed his disappointment about the failed negotiations, stating, “There were originally talks to have me fight Ngannou [on December 23], and I was like, ‘Okay, it’s a walk in the park for me, I’ll take it.’ But Ngannou didn’t want to do it.”

The December 23 event, now named the ‘Day of Reckoning,’ will showcase Anthony Joshua facing Otto Wallin and Deontay Wilder taking on Joseph Parker, making it one of the most anticipated boxing cards of the year.

Zhang remains open to facing any opponent, emphasizing his willingness to fight whoever is put in front of him. He expressed optimism about a significant fight in China in 2024, hinting at behind-the-scenes efforts to organize a high-level world title bout.

Reflecting on Ngannou’s recent performance against Fury, Zhang suggested that Fury’s mindset might not be fully dedicated to boxing at the moment. He commented, “With the performance Fury had against Ngannou, that says a lot about his mindset. I don’t think his mind is in boxing right now.”

In addition to the missed opportunity with Ngannou, Zhang disclosed that talks with Anthony Joshua were also in progress before negotiations broke down. Despite the setbacks, Zhang remains focused and determined, promising fans an exciting future in the boxing world.

As Zhang anticipates a significant fight in 2024, the boxing community eagerly awaits the resolution of negotiations and the announcement of future matchups for both Zhang and Ngannou.