In the Houston Toyota Center Yao Ming’s jersey hangs above the basketball court: a commemoration to the Chinese Houston Rockets player who ascended to legendary status over the course of his eight seasons playing on the court below. On Saturday night, another Chinese native, Xu Can, made his mark on history competing on the same court repurposed as a boxing ring, taking home the WBA’s world featherweight boxing title and becoming the youngest Chinese citizen to become a boxing world champion.
The underdog in the match against Puerto Rican Boxer Jesus Rojas, Xu Can pulled out an overwhelming upset by receiving a unanimous decision in his favor for the full 12-round match. In only his second time entering a ring to compete in the US and his first world title fight, Xu’s win was unexpected.
After defeating Rojas, 24 year-old Xu identified the source of his strength — “It’s from China,” Xu said, Chinese flag lifted behind him. “I am Chinese. For my country.”
Born in Hebei and raised in Jiangxi province, Xu and his parents left Jiangxi for the major city of Kunming in Yunnan province when the boxer was 14. There he began his training for a career in the sport.
Xu follows in the footsteps of two other Chinese boxing greats, Xiao Chaozhong and Zou Shiming, both of whom have their own set of impressive accolades. Xiao was the first Chinese world champion in the history of boxing, and Zou is a three-time Olympian, taking home a bronze medal in amateur boxing in 2004 and a gold in 2008 and 2012.
Xu is now 16-2 with 2 KOs, and when asked how he felt about facing Mexican boxer Leo Santa Cruz or any other formidable opponent who might be in line to challenge him Xu was undaunted by the possibility. With fans cheering from the stands, Xu repeated his slogan, “I am Xu Can. I can.”
Cover image: from WBA’s Instagram.
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