The results told only part of the story as Zhilei Zhang lost his perfect record in a majority draw against Jerry Forrest in Miami on Saturday night.
But, appearing on the Canelo Yildirim DAZN undercard at Hard Rock Stadium, he appeared a million miles away from that level as he faded badly following a fast start and was forced to hang on for a share of the spoils on the scorecards.
Zhang starts fast
Zhang (now 22-0-1) had Forrest on the floor in each of the first three rounds, and the American (now 26-4-1) appeared ready to fold with his legs completely gone.
A short left in the first, a right hook in the second and a big right followed by a left hook in the third all had Forrest on the deck. But he somehow then produced an astonishing comeback to turn things around.
Rounds 4-10 were all Forrest as he outworked and outpunched the Chinese two-time Olympian. And by the closing minutes Zhang himself appeared ready to fall – he was utterly exhausted and hanging on for dear life.
Forrest appeared just one punch away from a knockout victory for the entirety of the 1oth and final round, but he just could not finally chop down the huge tree in front of him.
Zhang vs Forrest analysis
The bout duly went to the scorecards, with one judge giving it to Forrest 95-93 and the other two scoring it 93-93 and a draw.
Forrest celebrated the result like a victory, and few can blame him given the deep waters he traversed in those first three rounds.
For Zhang, a bout which had promised to be a big stepping stone towards elite level ended up posing more questions. His basic style and lack of ring smarts was brutally exposed. And in the end, only his pure size appeared to save him from defeat.
He (and perhaps Hearn) may dream of a money-spinning showdown with Joshua one day. But at this stage, and on this evidence, it appears to be a major reach.