Somehow, it looks like retired American boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather just might be the newest sign of hope in the US-China trade war.
He’s already gotten Beijing’s pass to tour the Great Wall, adopted and christened a baby panda in Chengdu, and now he’s back to pledge his devotion to the Chinese Boxing Federation, RADII China reported.
The undefeated boxing icon has been officially designated “special advisor” to China’s national boxing team. In a statement released on the Chinese Boxing Federation’s official WeChat on Tuesday, Mayweather was reported as having pledged to “go all-out to use his influence and resources to support the Chinese boxing project in achieving excellent results at the Tokyo Olympics.”
Beijing’s seemingly sudden endorsement of an American boxing icon may seem surprising for a nation which, not too long ago, imposed a 27-year ban on the sport, RADII China reported.
China banned boxing in 1959 during Mao’s Great Leap Forward — a blow against the Western imperialists who brought the cultural import to the mainland in the first place. After a string of incidents left a number of boxers dead, the state condemned the sport for excessive violence. The ban on boxing lasted 27 years, dragged out due to the devastation of the Cultural Revolution, and the general anti-Western sentiment of the time period.
Fittingly enough, it was ‘Ping Pong Diplomacy’ that finally turned the tables for boxing. In 1971 during the Nagoya World Table Tennis Championships, displays of camaraderie and friendship between Chinese and US ping-pong players were so moving that they catalyzed a series of history-making Sino-US relations.
The term “Ping Pong Diplomacy” was employed by everyone from Mao to Nixon, and the players opened up a new chapter of relationships between Chinese and US government officials, even prompting then-President Nixon to ease Cold-War era travel bans and trade embargoes against China.
The very next year, he made history by becoming the first US president to visit China. The year after that, Muhammed Ali was invited to visit the mainland, and the ban on boxing was finally lifted, RADII China reported.
Now, 60 years later, the tables have truly turned. China has 12 Olympic medals (3 gold, 3 silver, 6 bronze) for boxing and 3 WBA world championship titles, including most recent from youngest Chinese citizen to ever win a world boxing title, Xu Can.
Popularity for combat sports in China continues to rise, and Mayweather’s addition will most certainly draw prospective youth towards boxing as well.
According to Boxing Scene, Mayweather retired from the ring with a perfect 50-0 record with 27 knockouts. His final career fight took place in August 2017, when he stopped UFC superstar Conor McGregor in ten rounds.
He won world titles at super featherweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight, and was considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the sport.
Mayweather also tops Forbes’ annual list of the world’s highest-paid athletes for the fourth time in seven years at US$285 million, including US$10 million from endorsements, appearances and memorabilia.