Chinese metropolitan Shanghai has been noted for its potential of growing into the second pro boxing base in China, following the success of a series of boxing productions staged in Macau.
The recent “Fist of Power II” boxing night held in Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena sold out some 5,400 tickets, where the audience’s enthusiasm was no less than that of Macau’s Cotai Arena. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who attended the show, told the Times that Shanghai was chosen as the stage for the first two pro boxing events held in mainland China because of its image as a “great international city” and its “tremendous” fan base.
Although bearing a strikingly close resemblance to the Top Rank productions in Macau, Shanghai’s boxing nights showed a bigger focus on Chinese boxers and the potential local fan base. The events’ co-organizer SECA told the Times that such a platform is designed to develop a talent pool of Chinese professional boxers and create a staircase for them to eventually step onto the nearest world stage: Macau’s Cotai Arena.
“Every boxer’s dream in the past would be going to Las Vegas; now there’s another option, which is to go to Macau,” said SECA’s CEO Mr Sheng Li, adding that “Shanghai could be the New York of Chinese boxing”.
“Macau is absolutely world-class; the best you can find – Manny Pacquiao fought there – in terms of boxers and in terms of the card,” he explained. “In Shanghai we have home-grown boxers. You can’t do a show with four or five boxers; you need to have at least forty to fifty boxers. Until you get world-class boxers, you can’t get a world-class boxing event,” he added.
Mr Li told the Times that the “Fist of Power” series is aimed to provide the audience and media “the highest-level pro boxing as a platform,” setting a bar for Chinese pro boxers to develop.
“For the younger Chinese boxers, they will see, ‘if I do well, one day I will be fighting on the ‘Fist of Power.’ And if they do well on the ‘Fists of Power,’ the top boxers will be fighting on the global stage. The best place to do that is Macau. So you look at this as more of a tier of levels, which offers a path for boxers to develop professionally,” he explained.
The sports promoter recognized that Macau – an entertainment destination– has all the ingredients for developing a world-class boxing base, and has set a reference to other cities as to how the sport put it on the world map.
“I think it’s a great vision as it takes a lot of determination to put on a Pacquiao fight in Macau,” said the promoter. “In Shanghai we can’t do that, we can’t afford something like that, and also because we have different kinds of objectives and it will take time. Macau has all the ingredients. A strong supporter like Venetian Macao, and you can make it happen,” he said.
“In mainland China even somebody that has enough money still needs to grow the fan base. You are facing the home audience, you need to get them to love this and really get into it.” Mr Li also expressed that: “it’s very different: in Shanghai you grow a fan base; in Macau you are using major boxing platforms to draw a fan base from all over the world”.
According to the promoter, Shanghai was once one of the world’s boxing capitals but there was a huge gap, as boxing was not legalized until 1990s. Today, the growing middle class and Chinese metropolitans that seek excitement are generating a steady fan base for boxing sport.
“People who came to see the event would ask when the next would be. And other cities want it too,” he said, adding that “give it a year a two” and Shanghai, together with Macau, would be able to write a tale of two cities for Chinese pro boxing.
*The reporter was in Shanghai at the invitation of The Venetian Macao