Boxing: Kiwi Joseph Parker confirms next heavyweight title fight against Chinese Zhilei Zhang

Kiwi Joseph Parker hasn't had to wait long for his next heavyweight blockbuster, with confirmation of a fight against Chinese Zhilei Zhang at Riyadh on March 9 (NZ time).

Less than a month after rekindling his career with a dominant victory over former world champion Deontay Wilder, Parker has landed on the undercard of 'Knockout Chaos', headlined by Anthony Joshua v Francis Ngannou.

Zhang, 40, has a 26-1 professional record, with his only loss coming at the hands of Croatian Filip Hrgovic in August 2022. Both Zhang and Hrgovic were touted as possible opponents for Parker, as the trio join a growing group of fighters vying for the various world title belts on offer.

Joseph Parker and Zhilei Zhang.
Joseph Parker and Zhilei Zhang. Photo credit: Getty Images

After falling to Hrgovic, the Chinese veteran burst into the spotlight with two knockout wins over Brit Joe Joyce last year, seizing and retaining the WBO interim heavyweight crown.

Joyce had previously inflicted Parker with the first knockout defeat of his career.

Parker previously held the WBO heavyweight crown, which is now one of several held by Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk, who will face Brit Tyson Fury in a unification bout in February.

As interim champion, Zhang currently has first right of challenge for the belt or would presumably inherit top billing, if Usyk or Fury relinquish the crown. Victory over Zhang would put Parker back in the boxseat.

After Parker's win over Wilder, Zhang posted on social media: "Not impressed... I beat everybody."

Parker, 32, told TalkSport he was ready to face any of the other contenders queuing up for their shot at the title.

"All those names that have been chucked at us, we've said yes to every one of them," he said.  

"I think it's good to say yes and offer these fights, but there's things that happen behind the scenes that we have to work on in terms of negotiations and things like that.

"Every name like Zhang, Hrgovic or anyone - whatever they've said, we've said yes to."

Hrgovic is the No.1 contender for Usyk's IBF crown and was quick to accept Parker's challenge, but he will now have to wait.

"I heard that Joseph Parker wants to fight me in March on Joshua-Ngannou undercard," he tweeted.

"I am very happy to hear that. I accept your offer, Joe. 

"Let's do it, let's go baby. Let's get down.

"Let's get down to business. See you soon, baby."

Brit Joshua is another on the comeback trail, after losing all his world titles - including the WBO mantle - to Usyk in 2021 and failing to regain them 12 months later. He dismantled Swede Otto Wallin at Riyadh last month, signalling he was ready for another shot.

Ngannou shapes as a dangerous opponent, after the former UFC heavyweight champion knocked down Fury in a non-title bout at Riyadh last October, losing in a contriversial split decision.

He is now ranked 10th in WBC standings, where Joshua is No.1 contender to Fury's belt.

World heavyweight rankings


Champion: Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine)

Interim champion: Zhilei Zhang (China)

1 Anthony Joshua (GB)

2 Jared Anderson (USA)

3 Joseph Parker (NZ)

4 Franck Sanchez (Cuba)

5 Filip Hrgovic (Croatia)

9 Deontay Wilder (USA)


Champion: Usyk

1 Hrgovic

2 Vacant

3 Joshua

4 Parker

5 Daniel Dubois (GB)


Champion: Tyson Fury (GB)

1 Joshua

2 Sanchez

3 Parker

4 Agit Kabauel (Germany)

5 Efe Ajagba (Nigeria)

8 Wilder

9 Hrgovic

10 Francis Ngannou (Cameroon)

12 Joe Joyce (GB)


Champion: Usyk

Interim champion: Manuel Charr (Germany)

1 Martin Bakole Ilunga (Congo)

2 Joshua

3 Parker

4 Dubois

5 Sanchez

10 Hrgovic