On November 24th Xiong Zhao Zhong (19-4-1, 11 KOs) of China will take on Javier Martinez (13-3-2, 6 KOs) of Mexico for the vacant WBC minimumweight title. The world title bout will take place in Kunming, China where Zhong resides. For many who follow boxing, this is just another world title fight but not in the eyes of the natives of China. China has never had a professional world champion boxer and a large portion of the country will be tuning in to watch Zhong’s attempt at history on their televisions. In Zhong’s only other attempt at a world title in 2009 he fought valiently dropping a close decision to then champion Daisuke Naito in Naito’s native Japan. Zhong even scored the only knockdown of the bout sending the champion to the canvas in round 6. That fight was fought at 112 pounds with Zhong giving up 5 inches in height to the champion. In his last bout this past June he dropped down to 108 pounds and fought argueably the best fight of his career defeating Oswaldo Razon of Mexico way of unanimous decision to win a WBC Silver title. For this world title fight the 4ft.11 Zhong will be fighting at his ideal weight class of 105 pounds and on top of that will be fighting on his own turf. The dimunitive sized fighter will look to bring the world’s largest populated country that elusive first world title in boxing won by one of their countrymen.
You injured your hand in your exciting last bout which you won over Razon and it caused a postponement of the original fight date of October 27th to the new current date. How has the healing progressed with your hand?
I needed the time. My hand is still not perfect. I don’t know why. In my last boxing match, I broke my hand in the second round. I still was able to finish the competition and won. Pain is not a problem for me. I have determination. I can not be stopped.
Your promoter Liu Gang was a former 1992 Olympic representative for China boxing as well a professional fighter. Not too many modern day promoters have actually laced up the gloves as a professional, if at all. Would you say that has made the chemistry so successful between you two and having you now on the brink of possibly becoming China’s first world champion?
Gang and I have always been close, but sometimes things get in the way. Before boxing, I lived a very impoverished life. My family are farmers as far back as anyone knows. This is a very poor life.
[Note by the translator: Poverty in China is not like poverty in America or Europe. Poverty in China means no help to survive. There are no soup kitchens or free food distribution centers or emergency hospital care. No money means no food and if you have no money there is no hospital care. You are turned away from the hospital. Bleeding to death? Come back when you have some money. As farmers, they are allotted a plot of ground so that shelter or housing is not a problem. Housing for farmers often means just that, housing. No plumbing, No electricity, No heat, no cooling, energy supplied by wood or anything else that will burn. In America or Europe poverty means no cell phone, no cable TV, food stamps and utility support. Poverty in China is very different from poverty in the USA or Europe and very much harder.]
Boxing for me is a way to a new and modern life. Gang has helped me a lot. He has provided me a place to live in Kunming and has helped to pay for my food and provided all of my boxing training. Other boxing supporters have helped too including wealthy Miao people in Yunnan. In China most people are of Han nationality. I am from the Miao minority group. We have our own language and culture different from the Han.
Sometimes it has been hard. Sometimes I have not had enough food to eat and I have lost touch with my family. It has been hard. Other boxing groups have wanted me to leave Gang and to join them, but I have stayed with Gang. The other groups come and go but Gang is always here.
I hear about Freddie Roach in USA. He was a boxer and is now a trainer. He trains Manny Pacquiao and is like Gang to me. Gang knows what boxing is and he gives me determination. In boxing there is no tomorrow, only today. Gang has also provided me with good trainers.
What are your thoughts your opponent Javier Martinez and what kind of fight can fans expect to see between you two?
I really do not know Martinez. I can only say that you will see me do my best. I will try to work the body hard. Some say I try to go to the head to much. My style is aggressive but fair. I have always tried to be a clean boxer. I have the talent, I do not have to use dirty tactics. I always try to be the aggressor. Sometimes that is hard because I am usually shorter than my opponent.
Do you feel any pressure in being in a position to be the first world champion in boxing that china has ever had?
Of course, but the pressure is not for China. The pressure is for me. This event will make or break my life. If I win, everything will be good. If I lose, it will be very hard to come back again. I have had a chance to become the World Champion before. This is my last good chance. I will do everything I can to make it work.
How will your life change in China should you become world champion?
Everything will be different. I will have chances to travel to the USA. I will have chances to defend the title and to make some money. Everything will be different and in a good way. It is the most important part of my boxing career. I will work very hard to make it work.
Translated by Howard Graham. Note that the translation tries to capture the essence of Xiong’s comments rather than a simple word for word conversion.