Shane Benis (previously) is the face of boxing in Shanghai, having organised Brawl on the Bund, the city’s premiere amateur boxing event, since 2008, and its sister competition Brawl on the Wall in Beijing. Now Benis is helping to bring professional boxing to mainland China with Shanghai Fight Night. I spoke with Benis by email about the upcoming event and boxing in China.
Shanghaiist: Tell us about Shanghai Fight Night, what makes this event different?
Shane Benis: Shanghai Fight Night features professional fighters on the main cards; we have four pro fights locked in and one semi-pro. All of this is taking place at Mao Livehouse which is the perfect venue for something on this scale: accessible and with a real underground fight club feeling.
SHist: Who’s fighting?
We’ve got five Chinese fighters including Au Yang and ‘Sugar Ray’ – two of arguably the best Chinese pro fighters in the country taking part in the main event. As well as a young middle weight from Russia, and the former Brazilian #1 amateur Andre Pereira making his pro debut. The fight I’m personally looking forward to seeing the most is our very own Russian trainer from Golden Gloves, Kostya, making his pro debut at heavy weight against a chap called Wu who’s had 10 pro fights. It’s got the making of a show stopper! Kostya moves like a middle weight, and Wu is all about power
SHist: Boxing seems to be having something of a moment in China right now, what with Zou Shiming making his pro debut in Macau and US promoters talking up the region’s potential. Why hasn’t boxing taken off in China before, and what’s changed?
We’ve been working on getting this event going for a couple of years, using the momentum off Brawl On The Bund and the white collar events we run. Macau opening up to boxing and featuring high profile Chinese fighters like Zou helps our cause. It’s been an uphill struggle to build a boxing following in Shanghai… it’s just been about timing I guess. Macau was always going to host international championships and the work we’ve put into developing boxing interest would inevitably compliment that. There are people who’ve been working on building pro boxing for years like Liu Gang in Kunming, they’ve repeatedly had to deal with licensing issues until recently when one of Gang’s fighters ‘Zhao’ became China’s first WBC world champion. Their fights are now televised on Yunan TV.
Boxing was banned in China once upon a time for being ‘too western’. But the Chinese now dominate amateur boxing because the amateur system in the country is incredible.
SHist: Macau has been the primary destination for boxing matches so far, do you see this staying the same or is there potential for expansion on the (non-legalised gambling) mainland?
On a smaller scale, yes pro boxing can develop traction mainland. However without casino money you’re always going to be limited to the scale of the events you can put on. I totally see Macau becoming the center of boxing in Asia just as Las Vegas is for the US.
SHist: Beyond Shanghai Fight Night, what are Pro Boxing China’s plans for the future?
One day I see there being a monthly fight night in Shanghai. Televised. But we’re a couple of years away from that scale of committed following mainland. Baby steps.
Shanghai Fight Night, 25 May 2013
200RMB (floor), 350RMB (atrium) inc. drink // 7pm // Mao Livehouse // 3/F, 308 Chongqing Nan Lu, near Jianguo Zhong Lu (3/F, 重庆南路308号, 近建国中号)
(Disclosure: The author is currently taking part in Brawl on the Bund)