Manny Pacquiao plan to fight in China
BEIJING – Sen. Manny Pacquiao announced last Thursday that he plans to fight in China but held back in divulging who the opponent could be and when it may happen as a packed audience burst into applause during a press conference at the Heyuan Royal Garden Hotel here.
Pacquiao flew in with wife Jinkee from Manila early evening then proceeded straight from the airport to join Dancing Sports chairman Vincent Zhou and WBO Asia Pacific chairman Leon Panoncillo in addressing the media. Dancing Sports and MP Promotions staged a nine-fight boxing card to kick off the Belt and Road World Champion Tour in a by-invitation-only event for 500 guests at the Heyuan hotel grounds Friday night.
Before the fights started, Pacquiao participated in a two-hour forum organized by Belt and Road, a government-owned global infrastructure construction company. He discussed possible collaborative efforts in business, investments and sports. The boxing event was the first in a series of international sports festivals that will be the platform for Belt and Road to actualize a national strategy for development and reform. The Chinese government had approached Pacquiao to assist in promoting boxing in the Mainland and he readily agreed.
“I hope someday, I will bring my fight to China,” said Pacquiao. “This is the beginning of a partnership, the start of a relationship to promote professional boxing in China. I’m looking forward to more co-promotions with Dancing Sports not only in Beijing but throughout China.” The plan is to stage four to five boxing cards in different parts of China a year. Dancing Sports will also set up sports festivals for marathon, cycling and mind games.
Zhou said Dancing Sports has been involved in promotions for 20 years and hopes to drum up widespread interest in boxing through Pacquiao’s reputation. “Boxing is not as popular in China as it is in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the US,” said Zhou. “We hope with Manny’s assistance, we could make it a growth sport. Our first boxing show was for charity and social development, not a commercial event. The Beijing Municipal Government and the National Training Center supported the effort. Our objective was to present a fair, open, high-level competition equal to everyone. We believe sports is open to all nations, races and beliefs. It connects everyone together.”
Panoncillo said the WBO made its debut in China eight years ago and is committed to back projects that provide an opportunity for fighters to excel in their craft. “We will always support individual fighters from China with the potential to become world champions,” he said. “We congratulate Sen. Pacquiao, Dancing Sports and the Professional Boxing Commission of China for collaborating to promote boxing in China. We recognize Sen. Pacquiao as the people’s champion and we’re proud of him as a member of the WBO family.”
The headliner in Friday night’s card Lu Bin was introduced at the press conference and said he will lead China’s return to world boxing prominence after two-time Olympic gold medalist Zuo Shiming’s defeat to Japan’s Sho Kimura to lose the WBO flyweight crown last July. Shiming was given full government support in his career but the devastating loss to Kimura has left China without a boxing hero for the moment. Lu vowed to take over from Shiming as the “heart of China.” Lu, 22, was the 2012 World Youth champion, the 2013 Asian Championships bronze medalist and a 2016 Rio Olympian. He said he wouldn’t find it difficult to adjust from amateur boxing.
After the press conference, Pacquiao was mobbed by the audience and obliged by signing autographs on shirts, gloves, books and posing for pictures. Pacquiao is an endorser of the mass-market Chinese sports apparel and footwear brand Anta. He will re-launch Anta in the Philippine market early next year as the new distributor.