China / Sports

IBF initiative putting titles on Belt and Road

By Murray Greig (China Daily) Updated: 2017-05-30 07:53

The International Boxing Federation has become the first global sports organization to integrate China's groundbreaking Belt and Road Initiative into a high-profile championship series.

At last week's annual convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, the IBF approved an ambitious plan to establish a Belt and Road Region, incorporating the 60-plus nations in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe that are participating in the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

The first IBF Silk Road Championship tournament will be staged in China in October, with fighters determined by the sanctioning body's new B&R ratings system. Finalists in each weight division will square off in 12-round regional title bouts (10 rounds for females) and will be eligible for the IBF's world rankings.

"We are very proud to be the first international sports organization to adopt the Belt and Road Initiative, marking our commitment to China and the other participating countries. I believe this is a significant step for future development," said IBF president Daryl Peoples.

"We are extremely pleased with the enthusiastic reception our plan received at this preliminary meeting, which yielded positive feedback and an eagerness by our members to lay the groundwork for what will be an exciting endeavor."

Peoples said the IBF plans to establish its B&R headquarters in China in conjunction with the inaugural Silk Road Championship tournament, adding: "Our aim is to use the annual tournament to stimulate boxing's growth throughout the region by providing a platform for fighters to develop their professional careers and for promoters to produce quality events for the fans."

The IBF's plan was approved by representatives and promoters from several nations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, including China, Russia and Thailand, and Peoples said he expects it to attract a new crop of fighters seeking a path to world championship opportunities.

"We will work diligently to make the first Silk Road Championship tournament in China a success," he said.

"Our new B&R Region, along with the tournament, will definitely enhance sport and cultural exchanges between the participating countries and bring new business opportunities for the regional sports industry."

Promotional rift?

When WBO world flyweight champion Zou Shiming makes his first title defense on July 28 in Shanghai, his longtime promoter, Las Vegas-based Top Rank Inc, could be on the outside looking in.

Zou's opponent has not yet been announced.

"They want to promote themselves; they're fighting with our partner, SECA, but we have a contract with them and that's the stand-off," Top Rank CEO Bob Arum told last week.

"I think it will get resolved. Our partners have done nothing wrong and we're not going to dump our partners to keep our relationship with Zou Shiming. We won't do that."

The hugely popular native of Zunyi, Guizhou province, won gold for China at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. He hasn't fought since last November, when he outpointed Thailand's Prasitsak Phaprom for the vacant world title on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao's victory over Jessie Vargas at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Zou's other two fights in 2016 were a TKO of Brazil's Natan Coutinho in Shanghai in January and a June decision over Hungary's Jozsef Ajtai at Madison Square Garden in New York.

At his 36th birthday celebration in Shanghai earlier this month, Zou said he's not planning to hang up his gloves any time soon, even though "winning or losing does not matter that much anymore."

"I achieved my greatest ambition when I won Olympic gold," Zou (9-1, 2 KO) told China Daily. "I want to use my upcoming title defense to promote boxing in China and the development of the sport."

Hot Topics