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Over the last few years we've told, repeatedly, that Zou Shiming (7-1, 2) [邹市明] was the man who was set to put Chinese boxing on the world map and become a major star for the country. HBO and Top Rank got behind him, pushing him as though he was the best thing since sliced bread and the next Asian cross-over star, like Manny Pacquiao or Joichiro Tatsuyoshi.
Recent figures however suggests that's he's not even close to a star, in fact in a country where the population exceeds 1,000,000,000 (1 billion) his viewing figures are actually terrible.
TopRank recently announced, to much fanfare, that Shiming's most recent bout was seen by 36,500,000 (36.5 million) with 30,000,000 (30 million) watching their stream and 6,500,000 (6.5 million)^ watching in China on CCTV5. On paper the figures do look good when compared to the US where a highly viewed fight might break 3,000,000 (3 million) but the truth is that those figures are actually not that impressive.
If CCTV5 only got 6,500,000 from over 1,376,000,000 people then that's really poor.
Whilst we suspect that the fight got more viewers in China than the reported figure,and much less on the stream, the figures were the ones released by Top Rank, and we can of course take them with a pinch of salt.
Over the past couple of days CCTV5 have been showing more boxing with two special Chinese New Year Cards. Now the first thing to note is that Shiming wasn't put on one of those shows, if he was the Rockstar of Chinese boxing then you would have assumed Arum would have done everything he could to have got Shiming in action around the Chinese New Year, not more than a week before.
We see many of the top Japanese stars fighting during either the "Golden Week", at the end of April and start of May, or at the end of the year. They fight during those windows as there are more people at home and potential TV audiences are larger. In the past we saw Thailand doing big fights around the King's Birthday, whilst Mexican holidays are the big dates on the calendars of American fight fans. Either Top Rank were unaware of the Chinese New Year, were too slow to book the dates, both of which would have been relatively inept of such an experienced promotional outfit, or they knew Shiming couldn't draw as many as they, and CCTV5, would want for the date.
Yesterday saw the second of those CCTV5 shows, and according to figures published by the WBA the show had an audience figure of 200,000,000 (200 million)* for it's main event, a bout between Qiu Xiao Jun (20-2, 9) [裘晓君] and Raymond Commey (13-3, 7). That's around 6 times bigger than over-all figure of the Shiming bout, and as the bout was only aired on CCTV5 it's a TV figure more than 33 times bigger than the Shiming contest.
Prior to the Jun Vs Commey bout, Jimmy Lennon Jr described Jun as being the "the most important boxer in China today", which can be heard about 40 seconds into the video. If the numbers regarding Jun are right it could be very hard to argue with his assessment.
Of course the figure has been provided by the WBA, and the figures from Chinese TV for their end of year celebrations are often questionable, but the pre-show prediction was well over 100,000,000 (100 million), after last year's shows also topped 100,000,000. Last year's show, which came on February 22nd, was also headlined by Jun who Zovi really have turned into a star despite his flaws.
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Incidentally the first of the Chinese New Year cards features a bout described by some in the Chinese media as a boxing "Superbowl" between former WBC world champion Xiong Zhao Zhong (26-6-1, 14) [熊朝忠] and APB champion Lu Bin [呂斌]. The bout got notable attention due to it's cross-code participants though had a clear winner.
If anything China now has a notable fighter in both traditional the professional ranks, with Jun, and the AIBA professional ranks, with with Bin. They may both have been influenced by Shiming and Zhong, both it seems that both are likely to take Chinese boxing into the future,and what an exciting future it could be given the drawing power of Jun and the ability of Bin.
Sadly we have to admit we've not seen figures from the Bin Vs Zhong fight, though Zovi were predicting figures well in excess of 100,000,000 (100 million) and it would be a huge surprise if they didn't exceed that figure with ease given the attention the bout got in the Chinese press ahead of the bout.