Zhilei Zhang says he knew that he was hurting Deontay Wilder with his shots from the second round in their fight last Saturday night in Riyadh.

The former WBO interim heavyweight champion Zhang was forcing Wilder to go in the direction that he wanted by cutting off the ring on him. This wouldn’t have mattered if Wilder was aggressive and throwing punches, but he was fighting defensively

Zhang (27-2-1, 22 KOs) states that he realized Wilder (43-4-1, 42 KOs) was hurt because his eyes weren’t focusing. He continued to hurt Wilder with shots in rounds three and four and finally took out the “disoriented” former WBC heavyweight champion in the fifth.

Learning and Improvement

“The Hrgovic fight. I believe, and I tell everybody that I lost the fight on paper, but I believe I won the fight. It’s on my record. I learned from the fight, and I came back stronger,” said Zhilei Zhang to BoxNation, talking about his loss to Filip Hrgovic in 2022.

Zhang looked good after his fight against Hrgovic until last March, when he came into the fight against Joseph Parker weighing 291 lbs, which was too heavy for a 12-round contest.

“Ever since the Hrgovic fight, I took a big step forward. I learned, and I improved. After the Parker fight, I learned, and I improved. Whenever something is frustrating, I make myself stronger, and this is how I behave outside and inside the ring as well,” Zhang continued.

The Wilder Knockout

“Everything happened in the second round, I landed a big shot on him in the second round. I saw his eyes were not focused. So, I knew I landed my big shot in the second round,” said Zhang about hurting Deontay Wilder in the second round last Saturday night.

In the second round, Zhang caught Wilder against the ropes and unloaded with several hard punches that got his attention. He took them because they didn’t connect with full force, but you could tell from the look on his face that he’d been stunned.

“I did the same thing in the third round. So, I knew I hurt him, and I did it again in the fourth,” said Zhang. “By the time I caught him with a right hook [in round five], he was disoriented, and that’s why he’s turning around. I changed up and finished my job.”

What was strange was how Wilder threw a right hand while he was moving to his right, and his feet weren’t set when he threw the shot. It looked awkward the way Wilder threw the punch, but it left him open for a right hook from Zhang, which spun him around. Zhang then landed another right that put Wilder down.

“It’s not that Wilder wants to move in a certain direction,” said Zhang. “It’s me putting him in that direction because when I know when he’s moving to my left-hand side, which is his right-hand side, he was looking to counter my straight left. He was looking to punch with me or counter my straight left, but I didn’t allow him to do that.

“I cut him off and forced him to go the other way. Let me tell you. He still has the power. The first couple of rounds, he threw some big bombs, some big right hands. I was able to catch them, but I felt the power in my gloves.”

The right hands that Wilder did connect in the fifth round to the head of Zhang were thrown with his feet not set. He was moving too much and sitting down on his shots the way he needed for him to have a chance of hurting Zhang.

“In the fifth round, he landed two right hands. One of them on the top of my forehead. I felt it,” said Zhang about Wilder.

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