In the glamour division of boxing, where the giants duke it out, the possibility of a Chinese super heavyweight champion is as unexpected as the astonishing rise of basketball superstar Yao Ming a few years ago.
The behemoth named Zhang Zhilei – known to the Chinese as “the iron-fisted prince” – might not win a gold medal, but he has already entered the quarterfinals, making him one of a surprising seven Chinese boxers to advance from their first bouts this week.
At 6 foot 7 and 265 pounds, Mr. Zhang towered over his Moroccan opponent, crushing him by a score of 15-0 while thousands of Chinese fans screamed their approval. Even legendary promoter Don King announced this week that China is the next up-and-coming power in the boxing world.
Boxing – banned by Mao Zedong and not legalized in China until 1986 – is just one of many sports where Chinese breakthroughs are turning the Olympics on its ear. With historic triumphs in sports such as archery and fencing, where China was previously unknown, and with its growing dominance in traditional sports such as gymnastics and diving, China already has racked up 26 gold medals this week – almost twice as many as the United States.
By the end of the Olympics next week, the world might have to acknowledge China as the undisputed new king of global sports.