The 2011 World Boxing Championships, the major qualifying event for the London 2012 Olympics, rang down the curtain earlier this month in Azerbaijan's capital Baku, with China bringing home one gold, one bronze and three "Olympic tickets".
"Generally speaking, the performance of our boxers is up to the mark," Jianping Chang, president of the Chinese Boxing Association, the highest organ of power overseeing boxing in China, told this journalist in Beijing after the Worlds. "I'm especially satisfied with Shiming Zou's exceptional showing."
China's boxing kingpin Zou put on a series of dominating shows and claimed his third world title in Baku after being crowned at the 2005 and 2007 Worlds.
"It's Asia's only gold medal at this Worlds," Chang said, referring to Zou's latest success. "By winning the world title for the third straight time, Zou is spoken highly of by almost all the global experts."
The 30-year-old Chinese, who has remained unbeaten since 2007, is the world's most accomplished light flyweight in amateur boxing, a legendary ring master that has had one Olympic gold medal and three world titles under his belt.
Apart from Zou, China's second best, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist Zhilei Zhang who has been co-handled by American legendary trainer Lou Duva since 2009, fell short of expectations in the newly-concluded boxing tournament, even failing to qualify for the quarter-finals.
It was the two fresh prospects — heavyweight Xuanxuan Wang and light heavyweight Fanlong Meng that secured the other two of the three Olympic boxing berths for China.
"Our main purpose of this outing is to win as many 'Olympic tickets' as possible," said Chang. "The Chinese team overall has been ranked among the world's elite. Some certain boxers should have done better."
On top of the world at this Worlds is Ukraine, a dark horse that amazingly claimed four out of ten gold medals; Cuba, the traditional boxing superpower, topped two weight categories; China, Russia, Brazil and the host nation Azerbaijan won one gold medal apiece.
As far as the "ticket" number goes, Ukraine is also the biggest winner, clinching six spots at the 2012 London Games; standing side by side, next in line are Cuba, India, Italy and Kazakhstan, all with five.
At the height of its power, prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China managed to grab one gold, four bronzes and seven "Olympic tickets" at the 2007 edition of the premier boxing event.
"There will be another Olympic qualifying tournament in the Asian region. So, we'll still have chances to qualify for more weight classes," Chang asserted.
There are a total of 232 Olympic spots for the entire ten weight categories in men's boxing. As the main Olympic qualifying event, the 2011 Worlds allowed 92 boxers to qualify; the other 140 tickets will be produced by the respective continental Olympic qualifying tournaments.
With the emergence of Shiming Zou, amateur boxing in China has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years.
It reached its climax in 2008 when China, in the Beijing Games, smashed the triopoly of Cuba, Russia and the United States, any of whom had ruled the tally table in boxing at every Olympics since 1942. With two golds, one silver and one bronze, China emerged as the new king in the amateur boxing world.
Three years on, the 2012 London Olympic Games is approaching. Will China's boxing be in a position to renew its old glory on an entire alien land?
As women's boxing punched a spot in next year's London Games and would bring two more boxing gold medals to the table, it adds more weight to the bar for the Asian female boxing powerhouse.
China once dominated the 2009 Women's World Boxing Championships, playing the solo on the brightest medal tally with five golds, two silvers and four bronzes, far exceeding the runner-up Turkey with three golds and four bronzes.
"Speaking of the 2012 London Games, the Chinese national boxing team has set its sight on one gold medal for men’s boxing and another for women’s boxing," confided Chang.
"We have confidence to have a serious crack at the Olympic golds next year."
(This is a reprint from the Global Times of the Oct 14, 2011 edition.)
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