We've yet to see the giant of China really make its mark on professional boxing in the way that some had anticipated, but there has been a few notable fighters from the country, and it does look like we're set to see rise in competition from the country over the coming years. So let's look at where we stand today with Chinese boxing.
We'll start by looking at Can Xu (15-2, 2), the biggest hope of the country now, and the next Chinese fighter set to fight for a world title. The 24 year old Featherweight will be getting a WBA "regular" world title fight on January 26th. Xu has genuinely impressed at times, and is a better fighter than many would expect. Wins over the likes of Neomar Cermeno, Jelbirt Gomera, Hurricane Futa, Spicy Matsushita and Corey McConnell show he's, at worst, Oriental level. Sadly though he does seem to be getting a world title fight a little bit too early in his career. He's an exciting, high output guy with a good pressure style, but his lack of power is an issue, and will certainly be a problem with bouts at world level. Notably he's one of about 60 Chinese Featherweights, with the next best, arguably, being Yiran Li (4-0, 3), a 22 year old who has shown early promise, but needs real work to develop to being close to Oriental level.
Of course whilst Xu is looking to become a world champion China does still have Xiong Zhao Zhong (27-8-1, 14) as an active fighter, or at least he was active last year, losing to Knockout CP Freshmart in a WBA title fight, and has been linked to another fight later this year. The 36 year old is the first ever Chinese man to win a world title and should be regarded as the aging veteran of the Chinese scene. Whether he fights again or not is unclear but he will continue to be involved in the sport following various investments and developments in the wider Chinese scene. To many he will be one of the figure heads of the next wave if Chinese boxing, and will be regarded as a key figure.
From the little guy to the big guys, the country has a couple of notable Heavyweight punchers who seem to get attention internationally. The more notable of the two is Zhilei Zhang (20-0, 16), who has shown a willingness to travel for fights, was a stellar amateur and has been linked to a potential future bout with Anthony Joshua. "Big Bang" is a 35 year could southpaw with surprising speed and movement, a solid straight left hand and nice combinations for such a big guy. There are however fears of his durability, and he turns 36 this coming May, so time is not on his side. The other Chinese Heavyweight of some note is 37 year old Zhang Junlong (20-0, 20), though his career appears to be meandering towards an anti-climatic end with nothing other than a pretty looking record.
Staying with the heavier weights China has a notable fighter at both Crusierweight and Light Heavyweight. The Cruiseweight of note is Peng Qu (14-2-1, 10), the current OPBF "Silver" Cruiserweight champion. Qu was fighting at Light Heavyweight until recently, and has since scored 2 opening round wins at 200lbs, including a freak 62 win over Joey Vegas who injured his knee. At Light Heavyweight they have the very talented, though somewhat chinny, Meng Fanlong (14-0, 9). The unbeaten Fanlong is a 30 year old who appears to be on the verge of something big after stopping Frank Buglioni last November in Monaco. Fanlong does have a serious question mark over his chin, having twice been dropped by Zura Mekereshvili, but is a sharp punching, smart boxer-mover and has the potential to fight for a world title this year.
There's an interesting Chinese trio at 168lbs, who aren't likely to fight at world level but are all very interesting names on the regional scene, and could one day face off to decide who the best Chinese Super Middleweight is. The fighters in question are Ainiwaer Yilixiati (14-1, 11), Wuzhati Nuerlang (11-2, 9) and Ahatelike Muerzhabieke (8-1-1, 5). All are pretty young, aged between 20 and 25, all are in China and all are going to be looking for things like the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles, which could make for a very interesting dynamic.All 3 are aggressive, exciting and well worth following, even if they aren't going to be fighting against the divisional elite.
The exciting, but flawed, Baishanbo Nasiyiwula (15-2-1, 6) has shown a willingness to fight at either Welterweight or Light Welterweight. There's no one else of note at Welterweight but there is the promising Lei Wang (2-0, 1) competing at 140lbs, and could be either a rival for Baishanbo down the line, or could China a 2-pronged attack in the division. Wang was a top amateur and a WSB participant who made his debut last year, and looked really good on debut, but did struggle against Ricky Sismundo on his second outing and there will need to be time given for his professional development before stepping in too deep.
One of the most interesting divisions in China is the Lightweight division, where there are a number of different unbeaten and promising fighters all coming through at the same time. One of the most interesting is Xiangxiang Sun (15-0, 10), who is unbeaten and has notable wins over Nelson Tinampay, Roldan Aldea and Roy Mukhlis among others. There is also Yongqiang Yang (11-0, 8), who has a huge 2018 with wins against Takuya Watanabe and Harmonito Dela Torre, and hard hitting prospect Xiang Li (4-0, 3), who kicked off the year with a good win over Arvin Yurong. As well as the unbeaten fighters there is also Wang Zhimin (11-3, 3), a 33 year old fighter who is teak tough and although unlikely to fight for a world title, he is good gatekeeper to the stars and a solid test for any emerging prospect.
A forgotten man in the Chinese boxing world is Qiu Xiao Jun (23-4, 11), a former world title challenger. Jun is a talented and exciting, yet flawed, fighter who could well climb the rankings again and find himself fighting for titles once more. However having lost twice to Nehomar Cermeno, and having fallen out with his old promoter it does feel like Jun's career is in limbo at the moment, and his last fight was in Thailand, whilst the one before that saw him failing to make weight.
At Super Bantamweight, the division that Jun first made his name out, we have the unbeaten Zhong Liu (13-0, 5) making his mark. The 27 year old Southpaw is a former WBO Greater China Super Bantamweight champions and has scored wins over experienced Indonesian foes in recent fights, picking up a regional title last time out. Hopefully 2019 will see him stepping up.
The lower weights have not only the aforementioned Zhong but also several other notable fighters. At Flyweight there is Wulan Tuolehazi (9-3-1, 4), who scored a huge 2018 win over Jayr Raquinel, and is unbeaten in 8 bouts. Also at Flyweight is Wenfeng Ge (11-1, 6), who was recently stopped by Giemel Magramo but proved his toughness in that loss and could certainly rebuild following his defeat, though is never likely to be a threat at world level. Whilst Magramo is unlikely to fight for world titles it's hard to imagine Jing Xiang (16-4-2, 3) not getting to that level, following some excellent recent performances against former world champions Merlito Sabillo and Kompayak Porpramook. There is also Lu Bin (1-1, 1), though his future is very unclear following his 2018 loss to Carlos Canizales.
The Chinese boxing might not be setting things on fire right now, but there is clearly a wave of fighters making a name for themselves, and it's not going to be long until the country does provide us a constant stream of contenders, challengers, prospects and, eventually, champions. One thing those involved in Chinese will need to do however, is sort out their internal politics and work together to push Chinese boxing forward, rather than to hold it back.
(Images courtesy of Max Power Boxing)
Earlier today we saw Chinese fighter Zou Shiming (6-1, 1) come up short against Thailand's talented but frustrating Amnat Ruenroeng (15-0, 5). If you listened to some members of the boxing press that was the death knell for Chinese boxing. According to them Shiming was the be all and end all of Chinese boxing. For the country to have a boxing scene Shiming needed to be a success.
Strangely however the under-card on the same show seemed to suggest that whilst Shiming was the jewel in the crown of Bob Arum's “Chinese Dynasty” he wasn't the be all and end all of the Macau scene. Never mind the Chinese boxing scene.
Firstly let me just give a mention to what is happening on the Chinese mainland courtesy of Zovi boxing.
If you listened to much of the boxing media you may never have heard of Zovi boxing but the outfit has been “Chinese boxing” before Chinese boxing. They have guided Xiong Zhao Zhong to a world title, the only one won by a Chinese male, and they have guided the career of several other Chinese fighters including the very promising Qiu Xiao Jun. Although a small company in the grand scheme of things they are the ones who are putting in the investment to create a Chinese boxing scene and they are the ones pulling the WBC into China.
Zovi have been around since 2003 though have really grown in recent years with the development of fighters like Zhong, Jun and the Xaing Jiang.
If you've not heard of of Jun or Jiang then you'll probably not think you're missing out on anything however both are world ranked. Jiang is WBO #15 at Flyweight, albeit with the WBO calling him “Xiang Jiny”, whilst Jun is the WBC #3 at Super Bantamweight. The odds are both will end up fighting for world titles in the coming years and both are young enough come again and again.
Going back to Top Rank, it's fair to say they wanted Shiming to become a world champion. They knew that if Shiming became a champion then they would have the key to making Chinese boxing massive. Shiming however failed to capture the imagination of those in the West. Fans watching the shows with Shiming were repeatedly critical of the double Olympic champion. Strangely those same fans were often positive about other fighters on the card that managed to steal the attention and fanfare.
One of those fighters was Super Flyweight action man Rex Tso (16-0, 9). Tso is an infectious fighter with a huge smile, great natural charisma, a happy go lucky attitude and a style that is made for TV. He has recently inked a deal with Top Rank for 2 years and although he's limited there are shades of Arturo Gatti about. He can box, we've seen him box against Ratchasak Kokietgym, but for whatever reason he gets dragged into a war and makes for some of the most fan friendly bouts we've seen in the Super Flyweight division.
The Super Flyweight division is a tough one but Tso can put bums on seats and when a fighter can do that they will get opportunities.
Another of the fighters was Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) who is now ranked #2 by the IBF at 140lbs. Yang is a 29 year old boxer-puncher who was described as being a “Chinese Adrien Broner” by British journalist Steve Bunce. We'd say that was a harsh description of Yang but see where Bunce is coming from with Yang's combination of ability and clowning though the guy is pure box office. He punches like a mule, he clowns and taunts and he puts on eye catching performances. He is defensively lapse but has a solid chin and is happy to take one to land one and has been on the radar of some fans for the last 3 years or so, since he beat Elly Ray in fact.
Yang is the type of guy who will appeal to US TV viewers, he will appeal to Chinese fans, he will attract European fans and more tellingly he is fighting in an attractive division. In fact he's fighting in one of the most popular divisions in the West. Add his appeal to Bob Arum's promotional backing and we have a star in the making. Better yet he speaks broken English giving him a “Gennady Golokvin-like” charm.
A third Chinese fighter who has caught the attention on the Bob Arum shows is Macau's very own Kuok Kun Ng (7-0, 3). Ng is the most limited of the 3 but also the least experienced and the man who has had the weakest of teams in his corner. Although he's the biggest “work in progress” he's also a local Macau fighter, exciting and good looking with a notable local fan base. We're not going to say he's mega popular but he does have a loyal fan base and, as shown in his latest bout, he's developing a really exciting aggressive streak.
Ng is unlikely to be moved towards a world ranking any time soon. He's simply too inexperienced and too flawed. He is however a popular local draw who will bring in a crowd and be given time to develop his skills without too much pressure on his shoulders. As long as he can link up with a notable corner team he could, slowly, develop into a contender.
Whilst the loss for Shiming was a big hit to Top Rank's attempt to take over the Chinese boxing market it wasn't the end of the concept. In fact in many ways it was the first set back since they started doing them and with the working relationships to Teiken and ALA I suspect Top Rank will continue to build in the area.
The one major issue is that the cards may need to be more “name heavy” promotions. This could mean that fighters like Nonito Donaire, Brian Viloria, or Manny Pacquiao need to be involved. It could however work to the advantage of boxing fan who may get the chance to see someone like Takashi Miura in Macau to try and tempt over Japanese gamblers. Lets be honest, who'd complain at seeing Miura given a huge profile HBO opportunity in Macau?
Personally I suspect we'll see HBO back in Macau in a few months time with Shiming in a against a world ranked foe as he rebuilds, Tso continuing his pursuit of the WBA Super Flyweight title, though not getting his much talked about title bout, and Yang possibly getting a high profile bout. Maybe I'm wrong but I really hope that's not the end of the Macau shows because they have given us some great, great fights and helped get some Western attention to the Flyweight division, something that we've been very happy about.
(Image courtesy of Chris Farinas/Top Rank)
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).