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Getting into the ring at the wrong time in history

Updated: 2012-12-09 08:14
By Tym Glaser ( China Daily)

Getting into the ring at the wrong time in history

If a boxer wins in the ring, does anybody hear? Does anybody care?

While I have successfully mangled Bruce Cockburn's lyrics beyond recognition, it should be duly noted that Xiong Chaozhong became China's first professional boxing champion when he beat Mexico's Javier "The Beast" Martinez by a unanimous, if oddly scored, 116-114, 116-112, 119-110 decision in Kunming, Yunnan province, recently.

Xiong, 30, is now the proud holder of the WBC's minimumweight belt, which means it's either not heavy at all, or he's quite small.

Aiming to emulate the feat of his compatriot, China's most decorated amateur boxer, Zou Shiming, a 31-year-old dual Olympic champion who also fights in the very lightweight class, has turned pro and harbors title ambitions of his own.

However, this belated surge of Chinese fighters into the pro ranks probably could not come at a worse time as the once hugely popular sport is pinned against the ropes and getting a thorough pummeling - from itself!

Boxing, a sport which pulled ears to radios and then eyes to TVs in the 20th century like no other pastime, is now a shallow shell of the beast (sorry, Martinez) it was.

Four decades ago - yeah, it was that long ago - we had Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Ken Norton fighting epic battles for THE world heavyweight title - the weight division around which the whole boxing world rotates.

Now we have the brothers Klitschko beating up hams and tomato soup cans with nary a reasonable challenger in sight since Lennox Lewis, of Jamaica/Canada/British heritage, hung up the gloves eight years ago.

And the sibling stoush the world wants to see between Ukrainian behemoths Wladimir and Vitali won't happen because? Their mommy says so!

As the great heavyweights began to fade, some of the best middleweights to lace 'em up took to the ring in the '70s and '80s and pounded out their places in history. Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Tommy "Hitman" Hearns, Roberto Duran and Mike "The Body Snatcher" McCallum ducked no foe.

Today, yesterday, last year and even half a decade ago, the only fight we have wanted to see is Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and they have conscientiously avoided each other like one or the other has a nasty, transmittable disease.

Aptly dubbed "Money" Mayweather seems to be the primary cause of this tremendous non-event with ridiculous drug-testing and purse demands, but the Filipino senator and singer could have made it happen if he really wanted to beat the living daylights out of Floyd.

Anyway too late now. Both of their used-by dates are pretty much up and any clash now will be more circus than show. We have been cheated of the opportunity to discover the best pound-for-pound fighter of the past dozen years or so. And, by the way, do their obnoxious promoters/managers get paid for not staging events?

If that's not bad enough in the sorry world of the sweet science, mixed martial arts is throwing mighty body blows to its sporting cousin with increased airtime, crowds and rapid international growth, which recently included an event in Macao.

So, welcome to the world of prizefighting, Zou and Xiong.

Tym Glaser is a senior sports copy editor who wishes Ali would stop making public appearances now.

(China Daily 12/09/2012 page8)

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