Wilder vs Zhang Predictions: Deontay can get back to business

 | Thursday 30th May 2024, 9:21am

Thursday 30th May 2024, 9:21am

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Deontay Wilder takes on Zhilei Zhang on Saturday, June 1 as part of the Queensberry vs Matchroom 5v5 competition. The bout takes place at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with DAZN PPV carrying the broadcast. 

Here are my Wilder vs Zhang predictions ahead of a blockbuster heavyweight contest.

Wilder vs Zhang

  • Wilder by knockout @ 7/4
  • Will the fight go the distance? No @ 2/9

Joseph Parker must be allowing himself a wry smile as he prepares to watch these two main event a major pay-per-view. The New Zealander’s last two fights have seen him score decision wins over Wilder and Zhang, one after the other. It is arguably the best two-fight run in heavyweight boxing currently. Yet the affable Parker finds himself on the outside looking in as the men he has conquered seize the Saudi spotlight.

But ultimately, boxing is as much an entertainment enterprise as it is an athletic competition. Wilder might have lost two on the bounce and three of his last four, but the former WBC heavyweight champion is box office. One of his era’s premiere knockout artists, people will always tune in to see the ‘Bomb Squad’ leader. They say power is the last thing to go so, even as his skills wane, you can’t look away.

Zhang is one of boxing’s great survivors. He endured a poor performance in a draw to journeyman Jerry Forrest. ‘Big Bang’ rebounded from a controversial loss to Filip Hrgovic in a strange but absorbing fight. Now he looks to bounce back from a points loss to Parker where he had his opponent on the deck twice and couldn’t finish him.

Two massive names meet at their lowest ebb. The round-robin nature of the Saudi-steered heavyweight division means that the winner goes right back into title contention. Whoever emerges from the Oleksandr Usyk vs Tyson Fury rematch will need opponents. Fury-Zhang would sell. Usyk-Wilder would sell. Heck, with enough high-budget video packages and PR manipulation, even Fury-Wilder IV would shift pay-per-views.

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Names sell, as do knockouts. Wilder has 42 of those from his 43 wins. Highlight-reel shellackings of world-ranked contenders like Bermane Stiverne, Chris Arreola, Luis Ortiz, Robert Helenius, Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina. The Fury trilogy may have blunted the “next Mike Tyson” talk. But let us not forget that Wilder had ‘The Gypsy King’ down four times across those three bouts.

Zhang knows his way around a stoppage, too. You don’t walk around with a nickname like ‘Big Bang’ if you can’t get your opponents out of there. The Chinese superstar has wiped out 21 of his 26 victims inside the distance. Most impressively, he stopped British hope Joe Joyce in back-to-back fights. Even in his loss to Parker, he still notched up two knockdowns. Zhang comes to throw down, make no mistake.

Often a cornered animal will lash out with greater force and efficiency. What we have in Wilder and Zhang are two cornered animals. Each knows a loss here would draw the curtain on their ambitions as a title-chasing heavyweight. 

That can either lead to a cagey fight or an all-out war. I think we will get a little of both in this one. Wilder looked tentative against Parker, perhaps gun-shy after Fury shellacking him. Zhang opens up opponents with a patient style. I expect a couple of rounds of circling before the bombs arrive but, when they do, I think this one will catch fire.

Zhang will be up against a rarity in his career. A fighter who outdoes him for height and reach. Wilder is an inch taller with a three-inch advantage in wingspan. Can Zhang afford to fight at range knowing Wilder has these advantages?

I think Zhang’s style lends itself to what Wilder will try to do. The American has always looked to wing in rangy shots that detonate on the opponent from distance. Zhang doesn’t fight with a lot of head movement, often coming forward in straight lines. I can see Zhang winning the technical battle, dominating the action while it lasts. But that Wilder X-factor is always hiding around the corner. 

I’m backing the one-punch power of Wilder to decide this one. Zhang is a better boxer but ‘The Bronze Bomber’ carries the sort of whack that comes once in a generation. He was disinterested against Parker, but he knows he cannot afford that sort of performance again. Wilder’s career depends on it.

My pick is Wilder to win by knockout at 7/4. A year ago you would never have found Wilder as the underdog in a fight of this nature. But the years have lapped at his skills and desire. However, at 41, Zhang could be experiencing a similar decline. Ultimately that leaves power as the deciding factor for me. ‘Big Bang’ will have to be punch-perfect, like Parker was, to avoid getting hit with a ‘Bomb Squad’ special. I don’t think he can be. The Wilder rebuild begins now.

You can find all our latest boxing tips and analysis at our Betfred Insights Boxing page

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