Bivol to face Zinad; Wilder-Zhang new main event


Dmitry Bivol will defend his WBA light heavyweight title vs. Libya’s Malik Zinad on June 1 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, following Artur Beterbiev’s withdrawal, Turki Alalshikh, the chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, told ESPN on Saturday.

Former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder vs. Zhilei Zhang — two fighters coming off losses to Joseph Parker — is the new main event, per Alalshikh. Wilder needs an impressive performance to move onto a planned Aug. 3 bout with Jared Anderson in Los Angeles.

Wilder-Zhang is part of the highly anticipated series of five fights that feature boxers promoted by Matchroom vs. boxers aligned with Queensberry.

Filip Hrgovic will meet Daniel Dubois for the vacant IBF heavyweight title while Ray Ford will defend his WBA featherweight title against Nick Ball. The other two fights: Ammo Williams-Hamzah Sheeraz and Willy Hutchinson-Craig Richards.

Those five fights were slated to support the long-awaited Beterbiev-Bivol fight, but fans must wait just a bit longer.

Zinad (22-0, 16 KOs) steps in to replace Beterbiev, who will undergo surgery to repair a ruptured meniscus. Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs) could be ready to resume training by September, and there’s hope the undisputed light heavyweight championship fight vs. Bivol will be rescheduled later this year.

Zinad will be challenging for his first world title. The 30-year-old scored a majority-decision victory over Jerome Pampellone last week in Sydney. Zinad relocated to Malta in 2013.

Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs) is ESPN’s No. 5 pound-for-pound boxer while Beterbiev is No. 6. Bivol owns a victory over boxing’s top star, Canelo Alvarez, and holds the WBA title at 175 pounds.

Beterbiev, the WBO, WBC and IBF champion at 175 pounds, is ESPN’s No. 1 light heavyweight (Bivol is No. 2).

Beterbiev, 39, and Bivol, 33, both hail from Russia, though Beterbiev now lives in Quebec. That’s where he returned in January with a seventh-round TKO victory over former super middleweight champion Callum Smith, a win that kept him on a collision course with Bivol.

Bivol’s last fight came in December in Riyadh, where he scored a shutout decision over Lyndon Arthur.

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