Sports / Boxing

Beijing rings in with title card

By Murray Greig (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-31 08:37

IBF convention to feature world championship bout in capital

The International Boxing Federation is making good on its pledge to put China in the sport's global spotlight.

On Tuesday in Beijing, the IBF announced a world championship card will be staged on May 25 at National Olympic Park's Diamond Stadium, in conjunction with the Chinese capital hosting the organization's 33rd annual convention from May 23-27.

Headlined by IBF flyweight champion Amnat Ruenroeng of Thailand defending his title in a 12-round rematch against No 1 contender Johnriel Casimero of the Philippines, the card will also feature Xiong Chaozhong, the pint-sized power puncher from Kunming, Yunnan province, who became China's first professional world champion when he captured the WBC strawweight (105 lbs) belt in 2013.

Xiong's record of 26-6-1 includes 14 knockouts, and he has won four of five since being dethroned by Mexico's Oswaldo Novoa in 2014. Now ranked No 4 in the world, he will face No 8 Jose Jimenez of Colombia in a 12-round elimination bout for the IBF's light flyweight crown.

Cai Zongju (7-1, 1 KO), the No 1-ranked female light flyweight from Jinan, Shandong province, and Zhang Zhilei (8-0, 5 KOs), the southpaw heavyweight from Zhoukou, Henan province, who won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics, will also be showcased on the undercard.

After presenting Xiong with a certificate proclaiming him an official IBF China ambassador, international ratings chairman Anibal Miramontes said the convention and world championship card reflect the sanctioning body's commitment to grow the sport here.

"First and foremost we want to provide Chinese boxers an opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills while at the same time introducing the beauty of the sport to the people," Miramontes said.

"Xiong Chaozhong is a perfect example. His skill and determination has inspired fans not just here in China, but around the globe. Now there is a new wave of talented Chinese boxers on the way, and the IBF wants to be at the forefront of showcasing them to the world."

With support from national policymakers and in conjunction with reform of the sports administrative system, IBF China was formed in early 2015 with a mandate to promote and sanction professional events on the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

A nationwide tournament was launched last May, culminating in a national ranking system similar to those in other IBF jurisdictions.

Taking a page from the New Jersey-based organization's recipe for success in the US and other countries, IBF China has already made an impact - both athletically and socially.

"We are very proud that two successful seminars for referees and judges have already been held in Beijing, and more are planned," said Miramontes.

"IBF China is involved in ongoing social projects as well. One example was teachers from remote rural areas being invited to watch boxing shows, and then being given the gloves and equipment for their students to try out."

IBF public relations director Jeanette Salazar said the upcoming convention was years in the planning.

"The IBF is thrilled to be convening in China for the first time, and it will be a celebration of the growth of boxing in a nation that loves and appreciates sports of all kinds," she said.

"It will be like a big family reunion, with many current and former champions in attendance. But it will also be an opportunity for boxers, promoters, managers, the media and ordinary fans to provide input, explore new ideas ... and make new friends.

"Along with presentations and seminars with trainers, medical professionals, referees and judges, we want this to be both fun and educational for all our attendees.

"For five days in May, Beijing will be at the heart of the boxing universe."

Champ has an agenda

Unlike most champions, Amnat Ruenroeng relishes a rematch. But when he puts his IBF world flyweight title on the line against Johnriel Casimero on May 25 at Diamond Stadium in Beijing's National Olympic Park, he would prefer not to leave the decision in the hands of the judges.

"I have something to prove after the way our first fight went; I won the decision, but it wasn't pretty," the 36-year-old Thai said through an interpreter on Tuesday.

In their first meeting last June, Ruenroeng (17-0, 5 KOs) was credited with two knockdowns against Casimero (21-3, 13 KOs) after the No 1-ranked Filipino appeared to deck the champ in Round 3 - but the referee ruled it a slip. The last half of the 12-rounder was marred by repeated throwdowns more reminiscent of pro wrestling.

"Casimero is the mandatory challenger, so I look forward to beating him again ... hopefully by a knockout," said Ruenroeng. "After that, I will unify the title. But at some point I would also like a rematch with Zou Shiming."

Zou, China's double Olympic gold medalist, defeated Ruenroeng in an amateur bout at the 2010 Asian Games. But when Zou challenged for the IBF title last year in Macao, Ruenroeng recovered from an early knockdown to win a lopsided unanimous decision.

"In my opinion, Zou has not improved much as a professional," said the Thai. "I would like to fight him again, in China or in Thailand. It makes no difference. It will not be difficult to defeat him again."

 Beijing rings in with title card

China's Xiong Chaozhong is on a starstudded world championship card to be held in Beijing in May. Liu Jinli / For China Daily

(China Daily 03/31/2016 page23)

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