Jerry Glick reporting: Chinese amateur star, Zhang Zhilei, all 6’6" and 240 pounds of him, has signed up with new promotional company Dynasty Boxing. Dynasty is the promotional outfit started up by the brothers Lane, Tommy and Terry, sons of highly regarded former referee Mills Lane, and equally highly regarded trainer Lou Duva’s son Dino Duva. This will not be the last time that they sign up a boxer from China.
Zhilei is a soft spoken married man with a son who will be a boxer, so said the former amateur champion. Dynasty has high hopes that their first Asian fighter will take the fast track to the top of the heavyweight division.
Zhilei is the winner of numerous Gold and Silver medals, who is, at the age of 30, ready to make his move in the professional ranks.
"Especially with heavyweights," explained Duva, "There won’t be as many fights as maybe some lighter guys would normally take (to move up). I know that he has more of a pro style going in. He had a better pro style than amateur style. It’s going to take a little time for him to adjust, that’s why we want to get him with a really good teacher who could take him to another level. I can see him becoming an actual contender within ten to fifteen fights."
Duva noted that Zhilei won three Gold Medals in the China National Games, “That’s big in China. That’s like the Olympics of China.”
After the 2008 Olympics Duva was hired when the Chinese officials wanted to bring their fighters to a higher level. It was Duva’s job to arrange for US trainers to work with the local talent in western style training camps.
Zhilei is currently the second Chinese boxer to turn pro, the first was Zou Shiming who turned pro about one year ago under the Top Rank banner. Recently Duva introduced Zhilei to the US media at New York City’s high end Asian restaurant, Tao in midtown. He needs a translator now but Duva will soon start Zhilei on the process of learning English with tutor. This did not stop the soft spoken heavyweight from communicating with the gathered media.
Zhilei is very excited about the prospect of moving into the pro ranks and possibility of moving up in the heavyweight division. He will begin his career by working first with a conditioning coach while his team looks for the ideal trainer. Duva has a few candidates in mind but is not revealing any names at this time. So far he has worked for a month with an American trainer and the next step is underway, then a permanent boxing trainer will be selected. It is expected that he will be ready by May to turn pro. He will live in New Jersey while his wife and son remain in China.
How does Zhilei’s see competing as a professional as opposed to fighting in the amateur ranks? "Professional boxing has more rounds than amateur, so it is a stronger test," according to Zhilei.
Surprisingly he started out with canoeing as his sport of choice, but moved to boxing as he grew in size and he saw boxing as, "A sport of men."
"They did not really have Pay Per View in China," added Duva. "The national government TV in China is CCTV, they show a weekly boxing program, I think, every Sunday. Up until now that is how boxing was shown. The biggest fights were shown on CCTV, but now that some of the top Olympic boxers are turning pro it will be opened up other networks and be shown all around the country on free TV and internet. It’s going to really start growing."
It was back in 2008 that Duva first was told that there were some good boxers in China, "And that they could become a world power (in the sport)," said Duva. "I was very impressed at the Beijing Olympics. They won more medals than any other country."
This bright, personable young man is only the second in what could become a flood of Asian fighters to enter the fertile US market.
March 13, 2014