Andy Ruiz Jr and Zhilei Zhang are the two fighters being considered for WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury’s next title defense on July 15th or 22nd at Wembley Stadium in London.
The former IBF, WBA & WBO champion Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs) was mentioned by Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn on Thursday as the opponent that Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) will be fighting next on July 22nd, but now Zhang is also being considered.
Zhang (25-1-1, 20 KOs) is coming off a sixth-round TKO victory over Joe Joyce on April 15th in London. Joyce has a rematch clause and can take an immediate second fight with Zhang.
However, Zhang’s next fight will be with Queensberry Promotions, the same handlers as Joyce and Fury; it makes sense for them to match the big 6’6″ two-time Chinese Olympian against Tyson next because he’s coming off a huge victory.
Moreover, it will give Joyce more time to allow his right eye to heal and mentally recover from his disappointing loss. Throwing Joyce right back in with the powerful southpaw Zhang would be a risky move because he might have his number.
“Tyson Fury is planning a July return for a defense, with London’s Wembley Stadium on hold for July 15 and July 22,” said Mike Coppinger at ESPN.
“Andy Ruiz Jr. is in the mix for the Fury fight, as is Zhilei Zhang. Joyce owns the contractual right to an immediate rematch.”
It remains to be seen if Fury can negotiate with either of these fighters. It’s good that there are two of them because if Tyson fails to make a deal with one, he’ll have a second option to try and bang out a deal.
Given Fury’s recent track record in putting together fights against appealing opposition, it would be a good idea if his management added a few more names to the mix, just in case. What you don’t want is for Fury to come out empty-handed for his July fight by playing hardball negotiating tactics with them.
“Fury, Zhang, and Joyce are all aligned with Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, so it’s conceivable the rematch clause issue could be sorted if there’s a desire from all sides to match Fury with Zhang,” said Coppinger.
“Zhang has already expressed he wants to fight Fury in China,” said Terry Lane, who co-manages Zhang with his brother, to ESPN.
Fury is expected to fight in December in Saudi Arabia against Oleksandr Usyk or Anthony Joshua. Fury must take a tune-up because it’s been a couple of years since he had a serious fight since his trilogy match against Deontay Wilder in 2021, and he was almost knocked out in the fourth round.
Some fans feel that Fury was given a slow count with the referee counting very slowly.
In Fury’s last two fights, he’s elected to face aging British journeymen Derek Chisora and Dillian Whyte in gimme-level matches.