By Ken Hissner: Asians are known for smaller weights but active today is a giant boxer from China heavyweight Zhang “Big Bang” Zhilei cracking the top ten rankings!
The 2008 Super Heavyweight Olympic Silver Medalist unbeaten southpaw 6’6” Zhilei, 23-0-1 with 18 stoppages, is fighting out of Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Zhilei is seeking a rematch with former Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony “AJ” Joshua, of the UK who he lost to while Joshua would go on to win the WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titles, is now an ex-champ.
This writer met Zhilei prior to turning professional at a New Jersey gym. He would go on to turn pro in August of 2014, winning his first six fights in the US before returning to China in February of 2016, stopping David Koswara, 12-13-2, of Indonesia.
After four more wins in the US, Zhilei would return to China, posting stoppages in September of 2016 and January of 2017 with that one over Peter “The Chief” Graham, 11-3-1, of Australia for the vacant Oriental title.
In between those wins in China, Zhilei stopped Galen “Bad Boy” Brown, 44-35-1, in Quincy, Mass. He won four more times in the US before returning to China in September 2018, stopping Don “Mr. JBT” Haynesworth, 15-2-1.
It would be a little over a year before Zhilei would be returning to the ring in Monte Carlo, defeating Andriy Rudenko, 32-4, of Ukraine. In 2020 he only fought once, knocking out former Olympian Devin Vargas, 22-6, in November.
In February of 2021, Zhilei drew with Jerry “Slugger” Forrest, 26-4, despite scoring three knockdowns. Forrest, in his next bout, drew with Michael “The Bounty” Hunter, 20-1-1.
Zhilei would have his last fight in December, stopping the former National Golden Gloves champion Craig Lewis, 14-4-1, at Madison Square Garden, in New York, in 2 rounds.
Zhilei is currently ranked No. 8 in the WBO and No. 13 in the IBF, with both titles held by champion Oleksandr Usyk.
There was the strange case of another former Chinese Amateur champion and, as a pro, the WBA Oceania Heavyweight champion in southpaw Junlong “Dragon King” Zhang, 18-0 with 18 stoppages from Qingdao, China. He only fought in China and from October 2012 through July of 2017.
In Zhang’s ninth fight, he won the vacant IBO Asia Pacific title, stopping Nico Toriri, 27-16-3, of Indonesia, in May of 2014. He followed stopping American Jason “The “Sensation” Gavern, 26-17-4, for the interim World Boxing Union title.
In April of 2016, Zhang won the WBA Oceania title, stopping George Arias, 56-15, of Brazil. Later that year, he stopped Julio “Gaspar” Cesar Dos Santos, 28-6, of Brazil.
In Zhang’s final year of boxing in 2017, he made four defenses with stoppages starting in January with Rogelio “El Pequeno” Omar Rossi, 18-4-1, of Argentina. In March, he stopped Saul Farah, 62-20-3, of Bolivia. In May, he stopped Pedro Otas, 30-3, of Brazil. Then in his final bout in July stopped Osborn Machimana, 22-9-2, of South Africa, who earlier in his career scored a first round stoppage over WBU champion Corrie “The Sniper” Sanders, 42-3.
Another Chinese giant was 6’11” Taishan “The Great Wall” Dong, 6-0 with three stoppages, who prior to boxing participated in wrestling, kung fu, and kickboxing and was born in Lanzhou, China, then living in Beijing. He only fought from July of 2014 to December of 2015 in all 4 round bots all in the USA.
In the past, Japan’s top heavyweight, Kyotaro Fujimoto, 21-2 with 13 stoppages from Tokyo, started boxing in December of 2011, winning his first five fights before losing for the vacant OPBF title to Solomon Haumono, 19-1-2. Two fights later, he won the Japanese title stopping Uganda’s Okello Peter, 21-6, who was fighting out of Japan.
Two fights later, Fujimoto defeated Nobuhiro Ishida, 25-9-1 over eight rounds. A year later, again, he defeated Ishida by split decision over ten rounds. In January 2017, he won the vacant OPBF title defeating Will Nasio, 10-1, of Australia, over 12 rounds. In December of 2019, his career ended losing to Daniel Dubois, 13-0 (now 17-1) by knockout, in his only bout outside of Japan, in London, UK.
Japan’s southpaw Ryu Ueda, 9-1-1 with five stoppages, fought from May of 2014 to December of 2019. After winning his first five fights, he was stopped by Kotatsu Takehara, 11-12-3. After a draw in South Korea, he stopped a pair of unbeaten South Korean’s in Sang Ho Kim, 5-1, and Jong Kook Kim, 3-0.
Two fights later, Ueda avenged his only loss defeating Takehara, 15-12-3, for the vacant Japanese title in what would be his final fight in December of 2019.
As you can see, the now 38-year-old Zhilei is the lone Asian heavyweight still active and looking in 2022 to get a world title fight. He is promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.