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September 5, 2015

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New league gives fistful of hope to Chinese boxers

A NEW professional boxing tournament will offer Chinese boxers a chance to win WBO points that could propel them onto the international stage.

The first season of League of Fists, a tournament jointly introduced by American boxing promoter Top Rank and their Chinese partner SECA, kicked off at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai yesterday.

Each game day will feature up to 10 bouts with a total of 224 bouts scheduled to be played out over 23 days, most of which will be held in Shanghai. The league’s first season will last until January. The league has enlisted 80 boxers.

Recognized by the World Boxing Organization, this new regional championship aims to discover China’s future boxing stars. The 80 boxers are divided into eight weight groups. They will go through round-robin, semifinal and final bouts in their own groups, and the champions will be given belts of WBO China Champion.

Top Rank President Bob Arum described the introduction of League of Fists as “a venture in boxing.”

“It’s part of our desire to build up boxing in China, and what’s happening now is momentous,” said Arum. “We want to develop Chinese boxers and take them to stages in the US, Canada and Mexico in the future.”

SECA CEO Li Sheng compared the new professional tournament to a base camp for Mount Everest climbers. “Professional sports is cruel, you have to reach world class (to be recognized),” said Li.

“A lot of boxers have to depend on their coaches and promoters to look for chances. We want to build a base camp for Chinese professionals who want to turn professional. From here, they can keep on climbing towards the Mount Everest.”

Li said more than 80 boxers had sought to take part in the tournament. He said they were planning another season which will likely be held from next March to August.

Most of the boxers don’t have professional boxing experience. Therefore, the round-robin stage will feature four-round bouts. The semifinal and finals will be of six and eight rounds.

China’s best known boxer is 34-year-old former Olympic Champion Zou Shiming, who missed out on his first professional world title in March this year after losing to Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng in an IBF flyweight title fight in Macau.


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