Virginia’s Jerry Forrest fiercely battled back from three early knockdowns to nearly hand Zhilei Zhang his first defeat, a late point deduction was key in the 10-round majority draw
MIAMI (February 27, 2021) — Southpaws Zhilei Zhang and Jerry Forrest clashed in a special Heavyweight attraction as part of the Canelo Alvarez-Avni Yildirim unified Super Middleweight championship title defense. The two were the lone big men at Matchroom Boxing’s event held at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida, and the evening’s fights streamed live on DAZN.
Forrest (26-4-1, 20 KOs) represented the undefeated Zhang’s toughest test to date. At 6-foot 1-inches and giving up roughly 20 pounds, Forrest could rely on the fact he was five years younger the 37-year old who was born in Zhoukou, China. Zhang (22-0-1, 17 KOs) had stopped 5 of 6 previous opponents.
The night almost ended early for Forrest, he was dropped at the end of the first round, and down two more times in the first half of the 10-rounder. Fortunately, Zhang’s stamina troubled him over most of the last six rounds, and late in the fight he received a one-point deduction that left Forrest with sliver at hope going into the 10th.
The judges favored Forrest’s resilience, and rewarded him for his hustle, but the three knockdowns were too much for the Virginian to earn a decision. Instead, he left the ring still having a chance to fight another day, avoiding a loss with a well-earned majority draw.
Forrest opened the first round active. Giving up 5 inches in height, Forrest circled away from the 6-foot 6-inch southpaw’s left hand and attacked underneath. The 32-year old Virginia native executed his game plan well throughout the opening frame. However, just before the bell, while attempting to jab to Zhang’s torso, he ran into a short left hand that sent him down to the canvas.
Zhang buckled Forrest again early in Round 2 with a left-right hook combination. The action paused briefly before Forrest reset and continued fighting. With about 1:20 left Zhang dropped Forrest again. This time it was a right hook on the temple.
Zhang opened the third round with more explosions. He stunned Forrest again, shortly after the bell, and then dropped him after a pair of big right hooks to the upper left side of Forrest’s head.
Forrest stayed in the pocket and competed. He went back to work underneath. Zhang connected with a sweeping right hook that rocked Forrest. The Newport News native continued mixing it up with the towering power puncher.
In the fourth round, and down big, Forrest continued to look for a way back into the fight. He went back to Zhang’s body. Forrest tried to chop away with right jab, adding in hooks to the body once inside. Zhang fazed the shorter fighter again, but the action stopped with a clinch. Forrest regrouped quickly.
Forrest popped Zhang with a double right jab around the end of Round 5’s first minute. Zhang only let some pawing shots go. Forrest mixed in some head movement while setting up outside. Zhang repeatedly leaned on Forrest immediately after the two came chest-to-chest. He received a strong warning from the referee before the end of the round – one where the China-born slugger took off.
Forrest moved forward in Round 6. A couple of right hands split Zhang’s guard. Zhang threw some hooks to Forrest’s body. Forrest came forward constantly and the two arm wrestled and leaned on one another until the referee separated them. Zhang’s tactic of resting while leaning his 256 pounds on the smaller man didn’t help with scoring, but it broke up Forrest’s rhythm.
Forrest pushed forward in Round 7, looking to chop away at Zhang and force this issue. Forrest made his way inside in straight lines, and a number of his shots landed on Zhang’s gloves. But, he clearly outworked the fatigued Zhang.
Round 8 opened with a clinch, after the two fighters met center-ring. An outburst by Forrest resulted in a nasty cut above Zhang’s right eye. The culprit appeared to be a clash of heads, but a left hand was landed on Zhang. Forrest continued to work to get inside and throw punches. Zhang threw some lazy shots to try to catch the smaller man coming to him.
Forrest chopped away Zhang, mostly to the body, in the opening minute of Round 9. Zhang, 37-years old, swayed side-to-side still looking exhausted – for the third or fourth straight round. Forrest’s persistence in swarming Zhang finally paid off, with around 30 seconds left, when referee Frank Gentile separated the fighters and deducted a point from Zhang. The China-born New Jersey resident had laid his arm over Forrest’s neck too many times.
The one-point deduction motivated Forrest for the final frame. He attacked Zhang for nearly the entire three minutes, and rocked him a couple of times. Forrest failed to fully capitalize on the moments when Zhang seemed ready to possibly go. However, he appeared to complete his comeback with likely winning at least his third straight round.
The judges favored Forrest’s valiant effort, and the Virginian received the only card 95-93, but it was canceled out by the other two 93-93 cards. Forrest exited the ring excitedly, avoiding another setback loss, with the official decision being a majority draw.
All photos by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom