Excerpt from "The Boxing Rebellion":
Teacher Zhang stood close to Zou’s face, spoke softly, and tipped a trickle of bottled water into his mouth. When the bell signalled the start of Round 2, Zou sprang forward and buried a left-right combination to even the score. He set his stance farther apart than before and bounced lightly on the balls of his feet. He scissored his legs, an homage to his idol, Muhammad Ali. His first round, it seemed, had been a warmup. He glided around Paraschiv, pausing only to flick a combination into the Romanian’s padded brow. Every time Paraschiv slung his fist, Zou eased out of the way and counterpunched. Paraschiv, pivoting and swinging in vain, did not score another point in the round. Or, for that matter, in either of the two rounds that followed.
Zou rarely knocks his opponents out. He batters them and darts out of reach, like an angry sparrow. Sometimes he holds his fists so low that they drop below his waist, a caricature of Ali. Zou is a light flyweight, the lightest weight class in the Olympics. But, even among boxers his size, Zou is known for exceptional speed. After he beat the Irish fighter Paddy Barnes, I asked Barnes what had happened. Zou’s left hand, he replied. “It’s that fast. I could hardly see it coming.” When the American Rau’shee Warren was on his way to losing to Zou in the 2004 Olympics, in Athens, Warren told his corner that he couldn’t keep up: “I’m telling the coach, ‘Dang, he can move, and I can’t catch him!’ ”
Recommended read, to say the least.
One more excerpt:
Zou is unfailingly soft-spoken and polite, which, in a sport of swaggerers, can be mistaken for lack of confidence. It shouldn’t be. After routing a European amateur champion recently, Zou conceded, “He is good. Outstanding. But I am better.” I asked him how he pictures himself when he fights. “I think I’ve combined martial arts and boxing,” he said. “Martial arts have a soft and flexible side, and boxing is more direct. Putting them together is a specialty of Chinese boxing.” He prides himself on distinguishing China in a way that it has never enjoyed. “Opponents looked down upon Chinese players before,” he has said. “They were happy to take on a Chinese boxer, because we were too weak.
“Now they come and shake hands with you. The stronger you become, the more respect you get.”
I can't help but think of the Frenchman who, after losing to Zou in the pre-quarters, refused to shake his hands.