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Zhang fails to land knockout blow

By MURRAY GREIG | China Daily | Updated: 2021-03-01 09:33
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Chinese fighter has to settle for draw despite flooring opponent three times

If he ever hopes to challenge for the world championship, Chinese heavyweight Zhang Zhilei needs to learn that when you get a dangerous opponent in deep water, you have to drown him.

The two-time Olympian from Zhoukou, Henan province, looked well on his way to knocking out Jerry Forrest after flooring him three times in the first three rounds on Saturday night in Miami Gardens, Florida-but he couldn't put the American down for good.

The 6-foot-6 (2.01-meter) Zhang paid for his lack of finish on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Avni Yildirim WBA/WBC super middleweight title fight at Hard Rock Stadium, as Forrest rebounded with a gutsy comeback and had Zhang reeling in the closing seconds of their 10-rounder, which was scored a majority draw.

Judge Rose Lacend had Forrest winning 95-93, but was overruled by judges Fernando Barbosa and Rocky Young, who both scored the fight 93-93.

The 37-year-old Zhang remains undefeated (22-0-1, 17 KOs), but China's 2008 Olympic silver medalist squandered a golden opportunity to record an impressive KO on a high-profile undercard.

Forrest (26-4-1, 20 KOs), a 32-year-old nuclear electrician, displayed huge heart by surviving the early knockdowns and forcing Zhang into a defensive shell over the last half of the fight.

Zhang sustained a gash over his right eye from an accidental head butt in the eighth round, and referee Frank Gentile deducted a point from him in the ninth for excessive holding.

Making the most of his five-inch (13-centimeter) height advantage, Zhang, who came in at 256 pounds (116 kilograms), dropped Forrest with a short left late in the opening round. Half a minute into round two, a looping right produced the same result.

The third knockdown, courtesy of a right-left combination, pitched Forrest to the canvas face-first-but once again he beat the count.

Before the fight, Zhang's trainer, Shaun George, predicted his man would win by knockout inside of seven rounds.

"I think in this fight we're gonna show a lot of different things," George told boxingscene.com. "If Zhilei does half of what he did in training and sparring, this should be a stoppage within six, seven rounds tops.

"It's a big card, and this is an opportunity for Zhilei to get more exposure. People don't know who he is because they haven't seen much of him. They've seen (Filip) Hrgovic, they've seen Dereck Chisora, they've seen the Dillian Whytes, they've seen the (Alexander) Povetkins. Those are the contenders we wanna face, but Zhilei has to get his name out there.

"I know what he can do. I've seen him do it in the gym a hundred times. I've seen him do it in international competition as an amateur. There's so much more to Zhilei than people have seen. It's not just punching power. It's about his IQ.It's about his timing. It's about his hand speed. It's about his footwork. It's about his head movement. It's about his defense."

After Saturday night, it also needs to be about how much he's learned about drowning.

Easy for Alvarez

Later in the night, Alvarez outclassed Yildirim to retain his world super middleweight titles with a technical knockout after Yildirim failed to answer the bell for the fourth round.

Alvarez, of Mexico, dropped the Turkish challenger with a left-right combination to the head midway through the third round. Alvarez followed with additional combinations, pinning Yildirim on the ropes. Yildirim survived the round but absorbed sufficient punishment that forced his trainer, Joel Diaz, to stop the fight.

With the victory, Alvarez (55-1-2,37 KOs) successfully defended his WBC and WBA belts.

"I came and did what I had to do," Alvarez said. "I had to win by knockout and I accomplished it."

The fight headlined the first boxing event at 34-year-old Hard Rock Stadium, home of the National Football League's Miami Dolphins.

In a methodical first round, Alvarez set the pace early with lead left jabs to the head and lefts and rights to the body.

"It doesn't matter if he is stronger or taller," Alvarez said about Yildirim, who began his career at light heavyweight before moving down to the 168-pound (76-kg) class. "It doesn't matter if he has a good trainer. I came to do my job."

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