The face of heavyweight boxing is changing in the United States.
Two Asian boxers have entered the ring. Chinese Olympic medal winner Zhang Zhilei is training on the East Coast. Another Chinese boxer, Taishan Dong, just won his first professional fight in the United States.
A Mountain of a Man
His name is Jianjun Dong. But in the boxing ring, he is called Taishan. Taishan is a famous Chinese mountain. And at 127 kilograms and 211 centimeters tall, Taishan looks like a mountain of a man.
In Asia, he is a top non-professional, or amateur, fighter. The 26-year-old is also a former kick boxer. And recently he started his professional career as a heavyweight boxer with a fight July 18th in San Francisco, California. Taishan Dong defeated Andy Rozman just a few minutes into the action.
VOA’s Mike Sullivan spoke with the young boxer at his training place in Los Angeles, California. Mr. Dong said he came to the United States to better his future in boxing.
The United States is strong in sports, a world leader. I hope to move to a higher level. America offers many opportunities to realize my dreams and reach my goals.”
Taishan Dong may be one of the tallest boxers ever. And he is powerful. But he is still new as a professional fighter.
Taishan Dong works on his hitting with trainer, John Bray. Mr. Bray himself is a former heavyweight boxer. He said the Chinese fighter has possibility.
“I think that he’s a young, eager heavyweight that’s very teachable. The heavyweight landscape is wide open, as you know, and he’s going to fare very well.”
Taishan Dong is not the only up-and-coming Chinese heavyweight boxer.
Zhang Zhilei will have his first heavyweight professional fight in the western state of Nevada this summer. He is now training in the northeastern state of New Jersey. Mr. Zhang won a silver medal in boxing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Both young men face cultural and language barriers. Taishan speaks little English. But he told VOA that he works around it.
“I trained in sports since a young age in China. Spoken communication is a big barrier in the United States. But I can work with my trainer using body language.”
His trainer John Bray does not speak Mandarin. But he said he and Mr. Dong both “speak boxing.”
Lately, Taishan Dong has more on his mind than just fighting. He and his wife Gege are new parents. Their daughter Harper was born four months ago in Los Angeles.
Taishan and Zhang Zhilei are both skillful young fighters. They both hope to change the face of U.S. heavyweight boxing. It is one American sport that includes few Asian faces.
I’m Anna Matteo.
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This story was reported by VOA Los Angeles correspondent Mike O’Sullivan and adapted into Learning English by Anna Matteo.