By Zhenyu Li: Despite two years ahead of the London Olympics, China’s boxing has shone its golden ray onto the land of the host nation.
The Chinese national boxing team, along with boxers from USA, Ireland and Sweden, was invited by the British Amateur Boxing Association (BABA) in company with some other major sanctioning bodies to compete with Britain’s Olympic medal contenders in Cardiff, Wales last week, and China registered impressive two out of three wins.
China’s light heavyweight prospect Fanlong Meng, who has been under the tutelage of the same coach with 2008 Olympic 81kg gold medalist Xiaoping Zhang, scored a lopsided 10-3 win over Britain’s medal hopeful Obed Mbwakongo. His show was so brilliant that it won the team leader Shiming Zou’s applause from the audience.
"Fanlong is very, very talented and is on verge of becoming the star of the future," the Olympic champion Xiaoping Zhang told SecondsOut.com in Beijing, China. "It’s fair to say that he is better than me when I was at his age."
At the same age as well as nearly in the same class with Meng, the 21-year-old Jiawei Zhang outpointed the European bantamweight medalist Andrew Selby by a score of 16-11.
Although failing to win by a large margin, the Chinese young gun who made his fourth showing at international event edged his strong adversary in a breezy manner.
"Unlike the previous events in which I often felt a little bit nervous, I won fairly easily this time," Zhang said after the bout. "To be frank, I think I am a bit better than my British opponent. His speed can’t be complimented."
While Team China won handsomely in the invitational, the nation preserved its sharpest weapons. Flyweight Shiming Zou and super heavyweight Zhilei Zhang, China’s two hottest gold medal favorites did not participate.
"In regard to the 2012 London Games, the Chinese national boxing team set its sight on one gold medal for men’s boxing," Jianping Chang, president of the Chinese Boxing Federation told this journalist before the team left for Wales. "The hot favorites are from the lowest and highest weight categories."
In the 2008 Olympics, China topped world rankings in boxing with two golds, one silver and one bronze.
"The Chinese team is quickly becoming one of the best in the world," BABA Performance Director Rob McCracken said before the invitational. "We want to ensure Britain is preparing against the best."
The team, led by China’s grand slam champion Shiming Zou, was to assess Cardiff, located just two-hours from London, and test the waters prior to possibly setting up the pre-Olympic training camp there.
The Chinese national boxing team was quite satisfied with the environment. "Cardiff seems like a forest city and our boxers felt comfortable training there," said Chuanliang Zhang, head coach of the national team. Team leader Shiming Zou also gave his approval to the city: "It has picturesque scenery and cozy environment. It’s hard to imagine we were able to train in such a quiet place."
As a world-class squad, the Chinese national boxing team was invited to return to Cardiff next year for a major pre-Olympic Games tournament between the world’s fastest growing force in the ring and the cradle of western boxing.
Billed as the WBC Night of Champions, last week’s event featured a galaxy of stars, including Joe Calzaghe, Vitali Klitschko, Roberto Duran and Earnie Shavers, among other big names in prizefighting. It gave China’s rising stars and champions of tomorrow the opportunity to shine and converse with some of the greatest boxing legends of yesterday on the same stage.
"In years to come, many of the greatest world boxing champions will come from China," the WBC President Jose Sulaiman claimed during the UK event.
Zhenyu Li, a bilingual sports and culture columnist for People’s Daily online, covers the boxing scene in China for SecondsOut.com.
August 7, 2010