By Zhenyu Li: Boxing in China was to take a step forward, as the nation’s first-ever 3-star caliber international boxing event came to a close over the weekend.
China brought down the curtain on the inaugural AIBA China Open boxing tournament with five golds and four silvers in Guiyang, Guizhou Province on Saturday, proving to be the biggest winner at the high caliber international boxing event.
"I must unhumbly admit that the performances of Chinese boxers have comprehensively reached a decent height, globally," Jianping Chang, vice president of the AIBA and China’s biggest boxing boss remarked to this journalist yesterday. "It’s not my judgment, but consensus of my peers from other nations."
China’s boxing kingpin Zou Shiming out-pointed the former Commonwealth champion Sunil Kumar of India 4-2 in the flyweight final, while the 2008 Olympic silver medalist Zhang Zhilei ran away with a win over the little-known super heavyweight Syrian boxer Ghossoun Soumar by the score of 9-4. The 2009 Asian Championships titleholder Zhang Jianting was crowned champion at middleweight.
Other than the three aforementioned veterans, light flyweight Wu Rongguo and light heavyweight Meng Fanlong emerged as two rising prospects that battered their way to their respective championships.
The other six gold medals were shared by boxers from such boxing powerhouses as the Cuba, Russia and Kazakhstan.
According to AIBA president Ching-Kuo Wu, the officiating of the games was fair and firm. He has not received any protests against the judges.
"As far as the tournament goes, the China Open is a big success," Chang claimed. "The tournament is the WORLD’S first-ever yearly AIBA 3-star caliber boxing event."
Last year, AIBA launched a star-based system of approval for events, for the purpose of developing more boxing events worldwide and providing boxers with more opportunities to earn World Ranking points.
The 3-star event is the top-ranked boxing tournament under the AIBA system. Such premier boxing tournaments as the World Championships, World Cup and Olympic Games boxing matches all have mandatory 3-Star approval.
"The first edition of the China Open served as a new attempt both for the AIBA and China’s boxing fraternity," Chang said. "Next year, the second version of the game will still be held in Guiyang and it’s gonna be upgraded to a formally AIBA approved 3-star event."
Chang claimed that the inaugural edition of the China Open has reached 3-star event status overall, yet it has not been officially approved by the AIBA.
In accordance with the AIBA, all international and continental events with more than 20 countries and over 150 boxers participating, as well as the five Confederation championships, are eligible to apply for 3-Star status. Smaller events may apply for 2-Star or 1-Star status.
The newly-concluded China Open has brought together fighters, coaches, ring officials and AIBA technical officials of more than 200 from 21 countries and regions, including great boxing powers like Cuba, Russia, Kazakhstan, Italy, Philippine and Germany.
While it is merely the first edition of the games, China Open has attracted such world-class fighters as the 2009 World champion lightweight Domenico Valentino, 2008 Olympic Games heavyweight runner-up Clemente Russo, and Cuba’s two 2008 Olympic silver medalists - bantamweight Yankiel Leon Alarcon and flyweight Andris Laffita Hernandez, not to mention China’s grand slam champion Zou Shiming and Olympic silver medalist Zhang Zhilei.
"We hope that top-class fighters from all around the globe would come to take part in the China Open," Chang said. "Quality-wise, I believe the game will become better and better. However, there’s also room for improvement, for example, the TV coverage."
Although the event was mentioned in China’s largest TV station CCTV’s CCTV News, the games were mainly covered by the local TV station.
"The backup pool of our Chinese boxing athletes is fairly strong, compared with other sports categories," Chuanliang Zhang, head coach of China’s boxing national team confided. "The new generation of our boxers has grown up."
"If a broader TV coverage is introduced, it will inspire those boxers’ commitment to the game, as well as produce more quality consumer products in regard to boxing for the masses."
Some insiders even daringly reckon that "its influence would reach near the status of those of basketball and soccer" within China should the second edition of the China Open was covered live nationwide.
By the end of this month, right after the China Open was ended, China’s first national amateur boxing league tournament is to kick off. It is an event that should be operated mostly under the market regulations, resembling to the China Football Association Super League (CSL) and China Basketball Association (CBA). It is based on such a mechanism that would bring vigor and vitality into the untapped boxing market in China.
The World Series of Boxing (WSB), a premier franchise-based team boxing competition run under the umbrella of the AIBA will land China as well. The AIBA president Ching-Kuo Wu has made it clear during the China Open that China has officially become one of the 12 franchises that will be competing in the WSB, and the tournament is to be held in Haikou, capital of China’s Hainan Province this December. It greatly manifests the AIBA’s attitude towards China’s growing power, global influence and glorious market potential in the sweet science.
"With the sports channel of CCTV’s continued coverage of world professional boxing championship matches, the sport of boxing already has a very large fan base in China," Chang revealed.
"Hopefully, these series of events would raise a massive tide of boxing and bring more people to get to know and appreciate the Noble Art, a sport of strength and beauty."
Zhenyu Li, a bilingual sports and culture columnist for People’s Daily online, covers the China Open of Boxing for SecondsOut.com.
April 13, 2010