Boxing was banned in China under Mao Zedong because it was deemed too Western and too violent. But if Top Rank's CEO Bob Arum gets his way — and he usually does — the country will be the future of the sport.
“For any serious business person ... it’s a country of 1.4 billion people and it’s a country that’s emerging economically to be a real super power,” said Arum. “It’s a country where people are just starting to have the opportunity to sample what we in the West are used to, like professional boxing. I think if it’s done right, this will be the premier audience for the sport of boxing in the world.
Arum has lumped his bets on China’s two-time Olympic champion Zou Shiming, who made his professional debut on April 6th in Macau. Top Rank estimated that 200 to 300 million people in China tuned in live to watch the 31-year-old flyweight.
Zou defeated the unknown Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela on a unanimous points decision in their four-round non-title bout. The home hero reportedly picked up a cool $300,000 for his trouble. The Zou-Valenzuela match-up got top billing even over a WBA/WBO world title fight.
“If it’s done right, only if it’s done right,” Arum said of his undisguised ambition of tapping into China’s vast population and their growing wealth. “You can’t give them junk, you have to give them quality and do it in a sensational place like The Venetian arena. You have to put the event on free television so it reaches the biggest possible audience in China, which is what we did.”