Xiong enjoys celebrity status in China as next defense takes shape
Just a few weeks removed from the biggest win of his career, plans are already underway for WBC strawweight titleholder Xiong Zhaozhong’s second title defense in October.
Xiong (21-4-1, 11 knockouts) of Kunming, China, and Zovi Promotions are hoping to stage a fight in his home county of Ma Guan. Woody Song, who is a spokesperson for Zovi Promotions and assistant to company CEO Liu Gang, says that they are seeking government sponsorship to stage the event, and will finalize the arena and broadcast rights later this month.
Song also added that no opponent has yet been settled upon, but that they are entertaining offers from Japanese champion Ryuji Hara (15-0, 10 KOs) as well as Shuhei Ito (12-3-1, 3 KOs), who lost the title to Hara last month.
A bout between Chinese and Japanese fighters could have symbolic significance, as China and Japan continue to tussle verbally over the disputed Diaoyu Islands (known as Senkaku Islands to the Japanese), a conflict that a BBC article referred to as “the most serious for Sino-Japanese relations in the post-war period in terms of the risk of militarised conflict.”
“We have to consider some political risks if fighting a Japanese boxer,” said Song. “We cannot lose, or Xiong may suffer some bad public comments. The Japanese fighter will face the same situation. So, in China, it is more complex, not just ‘business is business.'”
Xiong was less discerning about the matter of future opponents, however. “I welcome anyone to fight me,” said Xiong. “I don’t set a limit, I don’t pick.”
The 30-year-old Xiong became China’s first professional boxing champion last November when he defeated Mexico’s Javier Martinez Resendiz by unanimous decision in China, winning the title vacated by Japan’s Kazuto Ioka. Xiong solidified his championship credentials last month with a majority decision victory over Filipino contender Denver Cuello in Dubai.
Xiong was dropped in round one and lost a point in Round 9 for a head butt, but outworked the heavy-handed southpaw down the stretch to eke out the victory. The win earned Xiong the No. 4 spot in THE RING’s ratings at 105 pounds.
Last week, the WBC elected to reinstate Cuello as Xiong’s mandatory challenger, citing issues with the Dubai promoter KO Promotions leading up to the bout, which included the event’s near cancelation the afternoon of the bout, and a failure to administer post-fight urinalysis. The Cuello rematch will have time to marinate, as Cuello recovers from surgery on his right rotator cuff.
Xiong is still recovering from soreness in his right rib and right hand sustained in the Cuello fight, as well as “Panda Eyes,” which is a Chinese term for black eyes, but was in good spirits when he returned to Kunming Changshui International Airport.
A celebration was held three days later, and he has been meeting with Yunnan Province’s elite day and night for the past two weeks.
Xiong has been living comfortably since winning the title last year, having been awarded two apartments in Ma Guan County, plus a bonus totaling 1 million renminbi, which is nearly $163,000. There was some controversy immediately after, with some citizens arguing that the money should be allocated for local development instead.
Earlier this year, Xiong was one of ten citizens to be featured in the program Chinese Dream, which was aired by China Central Television (CCTV), the official organization of propaganda in China and the mouthpiece of Chinese Communist Party. The concept of Chinese Dream, which was inspired by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s slogan after being voted into office by Congress this past March, was to highlight Chinese citizens who have risen to success through personal improvement.
Song says that they have received offers to host Xiong’s future title defenses in Macau, Tokyo and Florida, and would consider those locales in future defenses.
Photos: Zovi Promotions
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected] An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.