Joseph Parker reveals the Zhang clause which makes his title journey tougher

Joseph Parker is moving closer to another world title shot, but it may not arrive any time soon.

New Zealand’s former WBO king was absolutely brilliant in destroying the fearsome Deontay Wilder in Riyadh last December. That set him up for another formidable challenge – the giant Chinese star Zhilei Zhang on March 8.

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Zhang is the WBO’s current interim champion and mandatory contender for the title held by Oleksandr Usyk. He claims he’ll need to beat ‘Big Bang’ twice to claim that spot and a title shot, thanks to a one-way rematch clause he says is in their contract.

Parker on Zhang rematch clause

Parker told the New Zealand Herald: “With the rematch clause, it gives us no options to fight anyone else when we win. In order to get the fight, it was one of those things where this fight comes with the rematch clause. There was no other option. If we didn’t take it, they would’ve given it to someone else.

“We’re always keen to take the best, biggest fights but they come with fish hooks. In this case, it’s a rematch clause. They’re trying to protect what Zhang has. He’s got the interim belt and he’s mandatory for the WBO title.”

Parker, brilliantly tutored by trainer Andy Lee, executed the perfect gameplan to totally defuse the threat posed by Wilder in their showdown in December. He’s now preparing in a similar manner for the challenge Zhang presents.

Decoding Zhang

The 40-year-old Chinese heavyweight’s star has never been as bright – his last three fights have brought a disputed loss to Filip Hrgovic and two dominant wins over the previously unbeaten Joe Joyce.

Parker explained: “Zhang is coming off two great wins so he’s full of confidence. He’s definitely powerful. We’ve done a bit of study on him so we know his strengths and weaknesses.

“The more we practise things in sparring, the more confident I become. We’ve got good sparring partners here in Saudi that Andy Lee has organised so in another two weeks I’ll be ready to execute the plan.”

Parker’s route to a world title shot

The current state of affairs in the heavyweight division means the contenders will have to wait a little while for a title shot.

Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk currently hold all of the belts, and are slated to meet on May 18 in that long-awaited unification match. They then are likely to rematch before anybody else gets an opportunity. Then we have the added wrinkle of Saudi visionary Turki Alalshikh wanting the winner of those fights to lock horns with the winner of Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou (March 8).

The likely scenario here appears to be that at some stage in the next 12 months, the titles start to fragment with Fury and Usyk unable to fulfil their mandatory duties. That would leave the way open then for whoever is in mandatory slots to fight for a vacant belt.