The Rise of Boxing in China Part IV: The Olympic Boom

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The Rise of Boxing in China Part IV: The Olympic Boom
Chinese light heavyweight Xiaoping Zhang (C) grabbed China's second Olympic boxing gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. (Photo by Zhenyu Li)

China struck gold on home turf during the 2008 Olympic Games with a history-making boxing boom.

On the hot afternoon of Aug 24, 2008, at the Beijing Workers' Gymnasium, China closed its Olympic show with two golds, one silver and one bronze in the square ring.

The Asian Giant smashed the trio of Cuba, Russia and the United States, any of whom had ruled the tally table in boxing at every Olympics since 1942.

Cuba bagged eight total medals — four silvers, four bronzes yet no golds. Russia leveled China in golds, but trailed by one silver on the table. The once towering United States ended up with no gold, no silver and merely a single bronze.

With two golds, one silver and one bronze, China emerged as the new king in the amateur boxing world.

Being the host nation could be a double-edged sword, for the expectation of performing on home soil would be way above the norm. The pressure had to be measured against the boost from the local media, as witnessed by Chinese shooter Du Li's failure to win the first gold medal of the Games.

Yet Chinese boxers not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded the high expectations of both the government and media.

 

China's light flyweight Shiming Zou launched the bonanza by winning in an unexpectedly easy fashion when the other finalist from Mongolia retired with a shoulder injury that had plagued him before the Games early in the second round. 

Shiming Zou won China's first ever Olympic boxing gold medal in history. (Photo by Zhenyu Li)

Two hours after Zou's triumph, the biggest dark horse of the Olympic boxing tournament, Chinese light heavyweight Xiaoping Zhang, resumed his compatriot's remarkable feat, doubling the host nation's boxing golden tally by outpointing Ireland's Kenny Egan 11-7 in the final.

China's third finalist, super heavyweight Zhilei Zhang, was blocked from winning the third boxing gold medal for his country by the talented Italian Roberto Cammarelle.

Although being completely outclassed by his opponent in hand speed, athleticism and ring generalship from the sound of the opening bell (while taking several crunching blows to the jaw), the Chinese giant showed heart and admirable resistance against the two-time world champion before being forced to quit in the final round.

Hanati Silamu, the World Championships welterweight bronze medalist, finished third for the second time when he was awarded the bronze medal together with Korean Jung-Joo Kim at the medal ceremony.

China rang down the curtain on the premier boxing tournament with two golds, one silver and one bronze, ruling the roost in the gold medal tally.

Boxing in China was to come of age.

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Zhenyu Li, a boxing historian and contributing columnist for some of the world's leading boxing publications, authors the "Beyond Gold" column for People's Daily Online in China.

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