Boxing: Joseph Parker confident he'll shock boxing world with Zhilei Zhang upset

Joseph Parker is embracing the underdog status as he prepares to take on China's Zhilei Zhang for the WBO interim heavyweight title in Saudi Arabia, with the Kiwi boxer saying he's in career-best form.  

Parker (34-3, 23 KOs) is the betting underdog against Zhang (26-1-1, 21 KOs), who has been labelled the 'boogeyman' of the heavyweight division due to his incredible power and enormous frame.   

 Zhilei Zhang and Joseph Parker go head to head at the weigh-in ahead of their fight.
Zhilei Zhang and Joseph Parker go head to head at the weigh-in ahead of their fight. Photo credit: Getty Images

However, this hasn't deterred Parker, who is relishing yet another opportunity to prove the doubters wrong.   

"He's the favourite going into this fight, they say I'm the underdog but I'm going to show you what I can do come fight night," he said during the pre-fight press conference.   

"When everything is going good in camp and everything is balanced and you feel great and you're seeing results, I feel dangerous, I really do. And Zhang is going to feel the danger."  

This wouldn't be the first time Parker has produced a massive upset in the ring. Just three months ago he dominated former world champion Deontay Wilder in almost every round on his way to a historic unanimous decision victory.   

The Kiwi credited his team for unlocking his full potential.   

"I've got a great team that I trust and believe in. Thanks to Tyson Fury for linking me up with Andy Lee, great trainer," he said.  

But as much as one of Parker's previous victories is motivating him, the same can also be said for his opponent.   

The 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medallist twice pummelled British heavyweight Joe Joyce, the fighter who handed Parker his first knockout defeat in September 2022.   

Parker claims he's improved leaps and bounds since that defeat.   

"Zhang did an excellent job in beating Joyce twice but the fighter that I was when I fought Joe Joyce, I'm a totally different fighter now, physically, mentally and I'm up for the challenge, I'm always up for the challenge."  

Joseph Parker lands a left jab to the body of Deontay Wilder during a heavyweight fight
Joseph Parker lands a left jab to the body of Deontay Wilder during a heavyweight fight Photo credit: Getty Images

Parker's longtime manager David Higgins backing up his prizefighter.   

"As Joesph pointed out, everything is clicking.  

"I've been with Joesph, 11, 12 years now and it's been a privilege and a roller coaster, but I can now say it's the best Joesph Parker I have ever seen, physically, mentally, spiritually.   

"I see Parker winning the fight emphatically."  

In an extremely rare move, Parker and his camp agreed to a one-way rematch clause with Zhang, meaning if the Kiwi can hand him his second career loss, he will have to fight Zhang again later this year.  

Despite demanding the one-way clause, the 1.98m Chinese giant is convinced he won't need a rematch.   

"Joseph Parker is one hell of a fighter, he's young, he's hungry and he's coming for the belt. But I'm the tiger here I'm ready to hunt and if you want to take the food out of my mouth, you're gonna pay the price," he said.   

No matter the result, both fighters are confident it will be an unforgettable encounter.   

"We're both ready,” said Parker. 

"Everyone up here is ready for a great night of fights. We've got all our energy back and we're gonna all put it all on display." 

The bout will be followed by Anthony Joshua’s crossover clash with former UFC champion Francis Ngannou.