Anthony Joshua ‘ran’ from former rival as rematch allegedly rejected

Chinese heavyweight Zhilei Zhang claims Anthony Joshua ‘ran away’ from him after dropping him at the Olympic Games in London – hinting he would like a shot at redemption. The two super-heavyweight contenders went toe-to-toe at the CopperBox Arena over 10 years ago but Big Bang hasn’t forgotten his quarter-final defeat in a hurry, insisting AJ used cheap tactics to bag his victory.

Zhang was caught with a flush shot from Joshua and sent tumbling to the canvas before losing on points to the Brit, who would later secure gold for Team GB.

But on his return to the capital, Zhang, who fights Joe Joyce at the CopperBox on Saturday night for the WBO interim heavyweight title, is adamant Joshua refused to engage in exchanges with the now 39-year-old.

“From what I remember back then the venue was very full,” Zhang told talkSPORT as he returns to the east London arena.

“I got dropped in the second round, I got up real quick, and then he started to run away for the whole of round three.

“And then the fight was over, just like that. I lost by decision.”

Interestingly, Joyce recently declared that Joshua had ducked a fight with Zhang, a bout Eddie Hearn has long mooted as a potential matchup he would like to make.

When asked if he’d heard any rumoured talks between Joshua and Zhang, The Juggernaut told iFL TV: “Apparently he turned it down. So, take from that what you will.”

Speaking back in 2021, Zhang outlined his desire to rematch Joshua in the professional ranks during a time when AJ was open to fighting all around the world.

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Zhang knows Joshua from his Olympic days and in 2021, he challenged his fellow medalist to a fight in China.

Big Bang told FightMag: “I would love to fight AJ in China because of our amateur backgrounds.

“The venue is there, the Bird’s Nest holds 100,000, so we have it all.

“Beijing and Shanghai are the biggest cities, very economically developed and boxing in China is growing.

“The sports fans there like boxing, they like AJ, so if we can make it happen it would be huge for boxing.”

Joshua had initially planned to make an instant return to the ring following his points victory over Jermaine Franklin but he recently announced he will now be back in December.

Matchroom Boxing chief Hearn has remained tight-lipped on his plan for AJ but it’s likely to include a substantial super-fight at the end of the year.

Dillian Whyte, Joyce and Tyson Fury are all believed to be serious options for Joshua while Otto Wallin and Filip Hrgovic have also been named-checked as potential opponents.

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