Boxing: Kiwi Joseph Parker leapfrogs rival contenders with confirmation of Zhilei Zhang showdown

Kiwi Joseph Parker's next opponent has been found and the fight is anything but a tune-up.

Manager David Higgins has gone as far to say he'll be seen as the underdog, when he takes on highly toughted Chinese boxer Zhilei Zhang on the Anthony Joshua-Francis Ngannou card at Riyadh in March.

At a press conference held for the headline fight, much of the talk is about Parker. Ngannou's promoter, Frank Warren, is equally excited by the undercard featuring his other big heavyweight, Zhang.

Joseph Parker celebrates victory over Deontay Wilder.
Joseph Parker celebrates victory over Deontay Wilder. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's a brilliant fight and a very meaningful fight for the WBO interim title," said Warren. "The winner of that is the manditory challenger and that organisation will call for a manditory soon."

That would put Parker a step away from a world title shot, says Higgins.

With that much on the line, little wonder Parker is already back at his training base in Dublin, just over three weeks after re-igniting his career with a win over American Deontay Wilder.

The short turnaround has become a theme, with Parker fighting four times last year.

"The quickest and best way to a world title is to fight often and win against big name opponents," said Higgins.

Southpaw Zhang is exactly that, after twice dismantling Brit Joe Joyce - the same boxer who knocked Parker out in 2022.

"If I was Parker, I wouldn't want to know Mr Zhang," said leading boxing writer Colin Hart. "He is the one I think they would all be shy of."

Higgins agrees: "It is a very risky fight and the bookies will probabaly put Joseph in as an underdog."

Not everyone in the business sees it that way.

"[Zhang] is a great fighter, but I think if Joe uses his movement like he did in the Wilder fight, he's the favourite in that fight," said Parker's former promoter, Eddie Hearn.

Another performance like that could have Parker back challenging for a title.