Will it be Deontay Wilder or Zhilei Zhang’s hand raised on Saturday? | Photo by Richard Pelham/Getty Images

Will it be Deontay Wilder or Zhilei Zhang’s hand raised on Saturday? Plus predictions for four more fights!

Deontay Wilder and Zhilei Zhang meet in the headline fight of Saturday’s Queensberry vs Matchroom 5v5 show from Riyadh.

It’s a fight that could be a brutal heavyweight slugfest, could be a brutal (the other way) heavyweight slog, and doesn’t have a clear favorite going in.

So who wins?

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Scott Christ (23-4)

A year ago I would not have guessed we’d see a major event headlined — albeit in replacement form for a far better fight that got scrapped — by “Joseph Parker’s leftovers.”

Absolutely psyched out of my gourd for the thrilling stylistic battle between a man who won’t throw punches and a man who has about a half-night’s work in his gas tank. In theory, Wilder’s right hand is still a destructive weapon. In theory, Zhang might be able to get by and take a decision simply because Wilder has openly admitted he has trouble pulling the trigger anymore, and he’s never exactly been a guy out there trying to win rounds.

Both can take a shot. Maybe Wilder’s talk about the return of the fire and the killer instinct isn’t just talk, as that sort of thing almost always is. Mostly I don’t know that this fight can be analyzed much beyond “if Wilder throws punches, he’ll probably win, and if he doesn’t, he probably won’t.” My pick is a true guess at what we get, even more than normal. Zhang UD-12

Wil Esco (19-8)

This is a fight that could really go either way because Wilder admits he’s struggled to pull the trigger as of late and Zhang really only has the stamina to pose real danger for the first half of a fight. If Zhang is going to pull off the win here, I suspect it’ll have to come early because despite his lack of volume, Wilder does carry his punch late into the fight and I don’t think Zhang will be able to either evade or withstand the power after the midpoint.

I’m still torn because fighters who have difficulty getting their punches off is usually a telling sign as to where they are in their careers and there’s an obvious concern that Wilder will struggle in that department again. That said, I’m still sort of inclined to go with the man with better conditioning because I think Zhang will be a relatively open target for Wilder in the back half and I suspect Wilder will keep from getting clipped early. Wilder TKO-10

John Hansen (18-9)

With apologies to Guillermo Rigondeaux, you can’t win a boxing match if you won’t throw punches. Power may be the last thing to go, but Deontay Wilder’s power won’t be a factor if he once again can’t or won’t let his hands go. And, it doesn’t matter if Zhilei Zhang has a limited gas tank if he never has to burn that fuel moving or protecting himself.

For years, the question about Wilder was how great he might be if he added X or Y to his limited arsenal, and didn’t just rely on that nuclear bomb of a punch. Now, post-Parker, he’s openly discussed his inability to pull the trigger when needed. A glance at my record at the bottom of this contest is clear evidence that I often read these situations completely wrong, but these issues only really trend one way as fighters age, and I just don’t see Wilder magically finding his spark again against a bigger, stronger opponent than the one who froze his hands. Zhang UD-12

Patrick Stumberg (22-5)

Strange though it feels to say this about a fight between one-punch knockout artists with limited output, I feel like cardio will be the deciding factor here. Wilder notoriously carries his power late, and while his pace isn’t one to wear out your average opponent, the same could be said of Joseph Parker’s and Zhang still gassed despite throwing less than 25 punches per round. I don’t see him fixing that problem anytime soon. Each of those punches is sufficient to knock a man to kingdom come, of course, but Wilder is notoriously difficult to get rid of. I still remember him shrugging off an absolute barrage from Luis Ortiz before putting him down.

Though Zhang did show off a chin of his own against Filip Hrgovic, I don’t see it standing up to Wilder’s right hand, especially not with an empty gas tank.

This is all assuming Wilder lets his hands go, but I feel inclined to be more charitable to the guy who wouldn’t throw a lot of punches against Parker than the guy who physically couldn’t. Expect a lengthy staring contest with a handful of quality blows from Zhang before he once again succumbs to being 41 years old and almost 300 pounds, opening the door for Wilder to put his lights out. Wilder KO-7

Quick Picks!

Daniel Dubois vs Filip Hrgovic

  • Scott: Hrgovic TKO-10
  • Wil: Hrgovic UD-12
  • John: Dubois TKO-8
  • Patrick: Hrgovic UD-12

Raymond Ford vs Nick Ball

  • Scott: Ball TKO-11
  • Wil: Ford UD-12
  • John: Ball SD-12
  • Patrick: Ford UD-12

Hamzah Sheeraz vs Austin “Ammo” Williams

  • Scott: Sheeraz UD-12
  • Wil: Sheeraz UD-12
  • John: Williams KO-10
  • Patrick: Sheeraz TKO-4

Craig Richards vs Willy Hutchinson

  • Scott: Hutchinson SD-12
  • Wil: Richards UD-12
  • John: Richards UD-12
  • Patrick: Richards TKO-9

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