By Jerry Glick
Photo: Teddy Blackburn
Dynasty Promotions headman Dino Duva announced Thursday at a New York City press conference that Chinese Olympic Silver Medalist Zhang Zhilei will turn pro August 8th on a DiBella Entertainment card to be televised by ESPN2 Friday Nights Fights from the City Fairgrounds in Fallon, Nevada. Duva also announced that former cruiserweight and five-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield has joined the team as an advisor. Duva outlined that the “Real Deal” will help the former amateur star to follow in his footsteps.
Duva, son of the legendary trainer Lou Duva, said that the joining of his organization with the great Evander Holyfield actually began about four years ago when Dino was working as a consultant for the China National team.
“I was working with Zhang Zhilei and some other boxer in training camps and I brought Evander in to be part of the training camps,” explain Duva. “It was when we did a USA versus China event and I introduced Zhang Zhilei to Evander and told him that someday Zhang Zhilei will turn professional and I would love to see Evander be part of the team to work with Zhang and help guide him and support in his professional career. Now that moment has come. Evander has joined the team as a goodwill ambassador, as a boxing advisor, as a public relations consultant and he will be working with us and we are happy that he has joined our team.”
Ironically, this announcement comes just two day before the seventeenth anniversary of Holyfield’s infamous “Bite Fight” with Mike Tyson during which Tyson bit part of Holyfield’s right ear off on June 28, 1997.
To mark the occasion, both Zhang and Evander took symbolic bites out of apples.
Holyfield, the 1984 Olympic Bronze Medalist at light heavyweight, talked about his amateur career and turning pro.
“You may face a fighter who’s stronger, or has faster hands,” Holyfield advises, “Just do what your coach tells you to do and he’ll be successful.”
“I said I was going to be heavyweight champion when I was eight years old,” said Holyfield. “I went to the Olympics and still my goal was to be heavyweight champion of the world. So it’s pretty much what Zhang chooses to do. We feel that he does have the heart, the size; he has everything that is necessary. The only thing you have to tell him is how to be it!”
Asked if he would consider getting in the ring to work with Zhilei, to spar as part of his training, Holyfield said, “I could, but he would have to need it. I shouldn’t have to take my licks. I’m not looking to take my licks, but for him to get to a level that he has to, I would.”
Looking at today’s heavyweight division, Holyfield commented, “I see a lot of guys who do basic things and they can’t make adjustments. They may win, but they won’t stay long. To stay long you have to make adjustments.”
They have not decided on an opponent yet for Zhilei, but according to Duva, “He will be a good opponent, one with something like a 2-1 record.”
Zhilei is thirty years old, late for a first pro fight. Duva hopes to have Zhilei as a top contender in about two years.
Zhilei, who stands 6-7 and weighs in at 260 pounds, is best known for winning a silver medal in the super heavyweight class at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. Additionally, he won a bronze medal at the world amateur championships in 2007 and 2009 at super heavyweight.
On a personal note, Zhilei is working on bringing his family here. He has a five year old son and a wife that he wants to bring to the US.
He will be fighting in the U.S. and in China, but preparation with his trainers Joe Grier and Harold Knight will be in the U.S.
He is satisfied with his team and training has gone well.
“I am better and more prepared than when we had the last press conference back in March,” said a confident Zhilei. “I am very excited about turning pro and I can’t wait to fight.”