Sometimes the process wasn’t too pretty, but the results were good as Zhilei Zhang preserved his unbeaten record by knocking out Devin Vargas in Hollywood, Florida on Saturday night.
Zhang, now 37 years old, does not have time to waste after signing with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. And he duly improved to 22-0 with a fourth-round KO courtesy of a check right hook and a big straight left (live on DAZN).
Vargas was expected to at least provide a serviceable test for Zhang, who up to now had very little of note on his professional CV. The 38-year-old from Ohio had been in with the likes of Andy Ruiz Jr, Dominic Breazeale and Junior Fa in the past.
Zhang, who weighed in at 260lbs, was quickly into his stride, using a pawing right jab to tee up big right hands and the occasional snapping right hook. Vargas meanwhile seemed happy in the opening session to fight defensively and answered with little of his own.
Vargas finally showed signs of life in the latter stages of the second, showing some speed and pop via nice combinations which landed comfortably on the head of Zhang.
The third was a pretty even round with Vargas again landing some nice combinations while Zhang continued to plod forward and use that jab to set up the heavier power shots.
Zhang vs Vargas results: perfect KO
Zhang though was in no mood to allow further success for Vargas, and the end would come early in the fourth round. As Vargas popped out a right hand, he was caught by a check right hook from the Chinese giant. And Zhang followed that up with a crushing left which sent Vargas crashing towards the canvas.
As Vargas tumbled towards the deck his knee appeared to give way and he was never beating the count. He laid on the floor in pain for several minutes before finally getting to his feet to congratulate his opponent.
While Zhang clearly has some way to go before being talked of as elite level heavyweight, the win at least keeps him on course for that dream of a fight with IBF, WBA and WBO world champion Anthony Joshua.
Zhang was beaten by Joshua during AJ’s run to gold at the 2012 London Olympics. And he spent part of this fight week talking about his desire to settle that score.
Doubtless a Joshua vs Zhang showdown in front of an enormous audience in China might be of interest for Hearn and Matchroom at some stage in the future.