China’s top boxer Xu Can wants the world; Chinese soccer resumes play

Society & Culture

The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature.

WBA featherweight champion Xú Càn 徐灿 (18-2, 3 KOs), China’s only boxing world champion, reiterated his desire to face IBF champion Josh Warrington (30-0, 7 KO’s) in a unification bout. As Xu told Xinhua: “There has not been a Unified Championship of featherweight for a long time. Warrington is strong with tough style, I know it will be a tough game.”

The two were initially slated to spar on May 30 in Warrington’s hometown of Leeds, England, but all sporting events in the UK have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Warrington is the currently the top-ranked featherweight in the world, and the matchup would undoubtedly be a step up for Xu. However, the Chinese fighter rejected the idea of building up to Warrington.

“Yeah, if I want to keep the title for a little longer, I can just play the game in China, but it will be meaningless,” he said. “The Unified Championship is an opportunity for me, and I want to take it when I am still young.”

The 29-year-old Warrington, who won the IBF Featherweight title against Lee Selby in May 2018, has had three successful defenses of his belt, all in Leeds.

The “Leeds Warrior” told the Press Association that he would “feel guilty” if the fight was to be held behind closed doors.

“I’d feel guilty a little bit because there are a lot of fans who have been coming since day dot and have not missed a single fight, and there are a lot of fans who sacrifice a lot just to be there,” he said. “It’s an occasion, a lot of them feel like they’re in there with me, and I couldn’t imagine having to force them to sit at home and watch it on the telly.

“I can imagine a few of them saying ‘surely you can just get me in, Josh, and I’ll stand at the back or something.'”

Warrington has been backed with passionate home support during his time as a professional. As Leeds’s first world champion, he has received support from the city’s professional sports teams, including soccer giants Leeds United.

The soccer club loaned the boxer Leeds United’s 38,000-seat home stadium, Elland Road, for his fight with Lee Selby for the title. The fight against Xu was also set to take place in an outdoor arena, this time in Headingley Stadium, the 21,000-capacity base of the rugby sides Leeds Rhinos and Yorkshire Carnegie.

The battle between the two will be a highly anticipated clash in the featherweight division. Both boxers fight with the same high-energy, high-output style, and could put on a real show in front of a loud, capacity crowd — whenever live sporting events resume in the UK. (Here’s how Xu is preparing.)


CSL clubs return to the field as significant financial losses reported

Chinese Super League

The first signs of life are beginning to emerge in Chinese soccer.

Reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande defeated Meizhou Hakka 5-0 in a friendly behind closed doors.

Guangzhou boasted an “all-Chinese” team in the win, with Elkeson (Ài Kèsēn 艾克森), Ricardo Goulart (Gāo Lātè 高拉特), and Wéi Shìháo 韦世豪 all getting on the score sheet.

However, the positives on the field were overshadowed by the announcement of a $274 million loss in 2019 for the club.

The club’s annual report, filed with China’s National Equities Exchange and Quotations, revealed an operating cost of $340 million, with an operating revenue of just $111 million.

The huge losses for China’s most successful and most valuable soccer club come off the back of the announcement that the club would be building a new 100,000-seat stadium.

Last month, China Daily reported that many clubs were becoming frustrated with the slow pace of change in the league. The reformists, led by Evergrande’s crosstown rivals, Guangzhou R&F, are reportedly frustrated by the league’s poor commercial performance.

R&F owner Zhang Li has been at the head of the attempt to wrestle control of the CSL from the Chinese Football Association (CFA) and make the CSL more profit- and commercial-driven, as is the case in the English Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga.

Li told China Daily last month that the CFA was unwilling to accept an offer of 10 percent of the revenue generated by the CSL.

“Logistically speaking, there were no problems. We were confident of having an annual revenue of about five billion yuan ($700 million) and even more.

“We agreed to give the CFA a 10 percent slice of the revenue, so that would work out at 500 million yuan. But nobody wants to relinquish power and control, so it’s tough to make any progress.”


China speed skating lose head coach after just 11 months

Wang Meng

Wáng Méng 王濛 has resigned as head coach of China’s national speed skating squad.

She had only been in the post for 11 months after replacing her former coach, Lǐ Yǎn 李琰, who had been in the position for 13 years.

With the squad less than two years out from a home Olympic Games, the move has raised questions about the team’s chances in Beijing 2022.

China Daily reported that Wang was forced to step down by the Chinese Olympic Committee due to the team’s poor results during the last 11 months.

Wang can certainly feel a little hard done by the situation. While results have not been perfect, the 2019-20 ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup was far from a disaster for Team China.

Wǔ Dàjìng 武大靖 earned the silver behind Hungary’s dominant Shaolin Sándor Liu in the men’s 500-meter. At the same time, Hán Tiānyǔ 韩天宇 and An Kai finished with silver and bronze medals in the 1000-meter and 1500-meter events, respectively.

In the women’s events, China claimed silver and bronze with Hán Yǔtóng 韩雨桐 in both the 1000 and 1500 meters.

The team events gave China two bronzes and a silver.

Unfortunately for Wang, she may have been a victim of the unrealistic expectations placed on her by the COC. Previous speed skating successes under the 13-year tenure of Li Yan had been the metric by which the COC judged Wang, rather than judging her on the squad’s current ability, which has been in steady decline since Wang — a four-time Olympic champion — stopped skating herself.

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.