China's First World Champion Crowned
Corey Erdman / November 27, 2012 - 4:57pm
Important boxing history was made over the weekend, as Xiong Zhao Zhong became the first fighter from the country of China to win a professional world championship.
The 30-year old captured the vacant WBC minimumweight crown with a unanimous decision victory over Javier Martinez in his hometown of Kunming.
Scores were 116-114, 116-112 and 119-110.
Fighters in China have long been discouraged from turning professional, despite a bevy of talent in the country's amateur system. To put it simply, professionalism is seen as an extension of capitalism, which is discouraged (at least optically), while amateurism is the preferred route: Servicing one's country.
As a result, world-class talents such as two-time gold medalist Zou Shiming have and will never take part in a professional bout. While Shiming is assumed to be a wealthy man anyway, with an abundance of endorsements floating in, other top amateurs without his stature are left out in the cold.
In Yung Chang's brilliant documentary China Heavyweight, he outlines the harsh reality for prospective fighters. At a young age, they are funneled by government organizations into amateur boxing programs with the hope of developing future Olympians. If they fail, or want to turn pro and actually make money however, there is no support or infrastructure for them to move forward.
Hopefully, Zhong's victory will be a turning point, and not just an answer to a trivia question years down the road.
Promoters have been trying to break into the Chinese market for years, dating back to Don King's Andrew Golota-Marcus Rhodes production. All that ever came from it was this adorable photo of The Foul Pole and a panda. (link: http://www.notifight.com/artman2/uploads/2/GolotaPandaDKP410NF1.jpg)
Zhong has garnered a fair amount of press, and his fight received coverage on English language Chinese television after the fact as well:
According to BoxingScene, top minimumweight Denver Cuello is already in talks to head to China in February to face Zhong for the WBC strap. The Filipino contender was ringside in China for the Martinez bout, and told Ryan Songalia of RingTV that he was not impressed with the victory.
"To me, I know he will not reach the twelfth round [when we fight]. If I hit him hard early on, the fight is over. I have no fear because the Mexicans that I fought against are better than Zhao, in my opinion. Most of the people that I fought against are big and mobile. Zhong is short and doesn't really know how to move," said Cuello.
More than likely, this is more than just bluster, as Cuello accepted step aside money in order for Zhong to face Martinez, meaning the fight should take place.
Regardless of the outcome, it will be the biggest boxing event in the history of the country, and another step toward its long-awaited inclusion in the global boxing scene.