Boxing in China

Boxing had first appeared in China in the 1920s, mainly in the port cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou, where foreign sailors were pitted against local fighters. The sport grew, unsupervised.


In 1953, at a big competition in the northern city of Tianjin, a boxer died after a bout. Sports authorities were unnerved, and in 1959, as China organized its first National Games, it dropped boxing from the lineup. Mao Zedong was driving the country further into isolation. Fan Hong, a scholar who specializes in China's athletic history, commented, "People believed that boxing was very brutal, very ruthless, and those were said to be the characteristics of capitalism. So it was banned."

1960s and 1970s

When the Cultural Revolution occurred in China, in 1966, the Communist Party banned competitive sports. After the Cultural Revolution subsided, in 1969, China used Ping Pong matches to reconnect with the world. It was not until the late 1970s that Deng Xiaoping decided that competition might be as good for athletics as it was for the economy. In December of 1979, Deng invited Muhammad Ali to the compound housing China's top leaders. The champion boxer hugged Deng. They sat and talked. Later, the word went out and Deng sent the message out that "If we want to win friends, if we want to win respect, we have to win medals".

1980s and 1990s

In the 1980s, began training again, after a fashion. Athletes had no bags or gloves. Sandbags were traditionally used instead. Liu Gang was one of the earliest recruits and is now China's biggest promoter.China first competed in boxing at the 1992 Summer Olympics, in Barcelona, where competitors were delighted to face off against Chinese opponents as China had been weak in that sport. The best that their coaches hoped for was that each fighter might stay on his feet a bit longer than the one before him.


It was until the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens that Zou Shiming claimed China's first boxing medal. He eventually made it into the semifinals and won a bronze. This achievement was greeted with rapturous applause and Chinese reporters nicknamed him the "Dark Horse" at first because of his underdog status. Later, they tried the "Knight of Lightning" or the "Fox" or, sometimes, the "Pirate", all celebrating his knack for snatching points and peeling away from his opponents' reach. That strategy was helping him win international matches. In Athens, Zou made it to the semifinals, eventually winning a bronze, China’s first in boxing. It was another year before Zou won his first gold medal, at the 2005 World Amateur Boxing Championships, held in the western Chinese city of Mianyang. He was the nation's first amateur boxing champion, and China celebrated.

China's boxing performance improved dramatically at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

ee also

*Boxing in Latin America

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