The Journey To Blossom

By Zhenyu Li: At the time when China was still on its journey to the blossom, embracing the world with open attitudes, there was one man who unnoticingly and unconsciously brought western cultures to his home. Western boxing is one of the cultures that he brought.

This 40-something man who was a huge sports addict was at the time working as a senior diplomat. During his tenure in Barbados as the acting ambassador in 1987, he became friends with an American diplomatic officer who happened to be a huge boxing fan and had boxing experience. He recommended this Chinese diplomat to watch some boxing matches. After watching several fights, the Chinese diplomat was gradually attracted by the brutal yet stimulating Noble Art.

What converted him from a casual viewer to a hardcore boxing fan was an epic battle between two prime middleweight champions, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns. He had never seen and imagined a boxing match fought in such an exhilarating and heart-breaking fashion. From then on, the Chinese diplomat began his true love affairs with boxing and it has never ever stopped.

Because of his dedication to his country and work, he chose to marry at a relatively old age and fathered one son. This boy was born to be a troublemaker who always whipped other kindergartners purely for the purpose of fun. He watched numerous Chinese Kung Fu films and was immersed in them. But film is just film. It’s an artificial pre-arranged fight, which became less of an interest to this naughty boy.

One day, when this naughty boy came back from primary school, he found himself totally captivated by the scene shown on the TV, two muscular warrior trading punches under the flame of the crowds. It was a videocassette brought by his father from the United States, the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier trilogy.

Two decades later, in front of his TV screen the Ali - Frazier fight was still on, same fight, same place, but not the same viewer. He finished the evolution from a naughty boy to a professional sports columnist who is now writing this article.

As a Chinese boxing scribe, I am here today to lead you to the inside world of the sweet science within this exotic ancient nation.

China is known for many things, the occult Chinese Kung Fu, the rich flavored Chinese cuisine, the ornate chinaware, the green Chinese lifestyle... you name it, however it was unimaginary to associate China with the Noble Art, until recently... and the best is yet to come.

As much as at the same time of last year in Beijing, the Eastern Dragon smashed the triopoly of Cuba, Russia and the United States, any of whom had ruled the tally table in boxing at every Olympics since 1942. With two Gold’s, one Silver and one Bronze, China emerged as the new king in the amateur boxing world.

Unlike amateur, professional boxing in China is still at its infancy, but will be experiencing its major shift, as Jianping Chang, the president of Chinese Boxing Association told me that he was striving for initiating China’s first ever boxing league tournament by 2010, which should mostly be operated under the market regulations.

China’s professional boxing market is an untapped gold mine, with the sport riding on a high speed train in the years ahead. That is why such top-notch boxing promoters as Oscar De La Hoya, Bob Arum and Don King have expressed so much keen interest in China.

Boxing is a sport without borders. With the martial arts traditions, which stretch back for millennia and a vast pool of potential athletic talent, can the nation that produced NBA superstar Yao Ming also generate the next Manny Pacquiao? Well, it is all part of the journey to blossom.

Zhenyu Li is the bilingual sports and culture columnist for People’s Daily. His agent can be reached at

August 19, 2009
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