Boxing was banned in China under Mao Zedong because it was deemed too Western and too violent.
However, if top promoter Bob Arum gets his way — and he usually does — the country will be the future of the sport.
“For any serious businessperson ... it’s a country of 1.4 billion people and it’s a country that’s emerging economically to be a real super power,” said Arum, founder and chief executive of Las Vegas-based Top Rank promotions.
“It’s a country where people are just starting to have the opportunity to sample what we in the West are used to, like professional boxing. I think if it’s done right, this will be the premier audience for the sport of boxing in the world,” Arum, 81, told reporters after staging a night of boxing at the grandiose Venetian hotel-resort in Macau.
China’s two-time Olympic champion Zou Shiming made his professional debut on Saturday and Top Rank estimated 300 million people in China would tune in live to watch the 31-year-old flyweight, who defeated the unknown Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela. The home hero reportedly picked up a cool US$300,000 for his trouble.
The Zou-Valenzuela match-up got top billing, even over a WBA/WBO world title fight.
“If it’s done right, only if it’s done right,” Arum said of his undisguised ambition of tapping into China’s vast population and their growing wealth. “You can’t give them junk, you have to give them quality and do it in a sensational place like The Venetian arena. You have to put the event on free television so it reaches the biggest possible audience in China, which is what we did here.”
“It was on CCTV-5, it was on all the regional networks, it was on the Internet portal. So we reached everybody, and that is what we will continue to do. That’s what we are going to do this summer, when we do another outstanding card here,” he said.
“Zou Shiming is going to have a six-round fight and we are going to do two title fights,” he said. “It will be a card that is really interesting and fan-friendly, and don’t insult the people: Do it at a high level.”
“People here want to see and feel what we do in Las Vegas, on the biggest possible stage, a Pacquiao fight and so forth,” added Arum, whose fighters include Manny Pacquiao and three-time world champion Miguel Cotto. “And that’s what we gave them tonight. It cost a lot of money to do all those lights and all that sort of stuff, but that’s part of the experience. And the people in China deserve that experience.”