Sammy's boxing clever in a city he loves
Sammy Bowen, a 31-year-old businessman from the UK, runs a boxing gym, a football club and a restaurant in Shanghai.
Having arrived eight years ago with nothing, he is now a successful entrepreneur and happy father. He reckons he owes China a big debt of gratitude for the chance to make a success of his life.
Having witnessed how fast the sports industry in China has been growing in recent years, Sammy opened a boxing gym in 2011. Unlike most of the gyms in the city, Sammy’s gym also offers all-girls courses. He wanted to create a safe environment just for young women.
"We are a friendly gym and we don’t believe it has to be about big tough men beating people down," Sammy said.
Early this year, his wife, a Shanghai native, presented him with a daughter.
"You just see the world differently now," he said.
It is family that has brought him a sense of belonging in Shanghai.
When it comes to how to raise his daughter, he thinks there is no point making her into a foreigner. Respecting his wife, his parents-in-law and the culture, he is going to embrace the Chinese way.
"She can have the best parts of both cultures — the best of being British and the best of being Chinese,"Sammy said. "I may look foreign, but I know how to be Chinese."
Q: How did you get together with your wife?
A: It took me a long time to date my wife. Obviously she is from Shanghai, and her father and mother too. The hardest part was dealing with them, having to meet and tell them why I wanted to marry their daughter. My wife is fine, but the parents are tough. That’s a typical Chinese family, right?
Q: Why did you set up a boxing gym here?
A: There is a lot of growth potential here, and a lot of opportunities for people. The reason I invested in boxing is because there are more and more Chinese boxing champions. The sport is growing fast. I think you could have a lot more Chinese boxing champions before China wins the football World Cup. That’s for sure. What I love about many of the Chinese people I meet is that when they take to anything like boxing, football, basketball, whatever, they are so passionate about it. They really get into it, not just, “Oh, I am going to try boxing, just see how it is.”
They buy all the gear, buy all the lessons and are really into it. One hundred and ten percent, their energy is amazing.
Q: What do you think of young Chinese people?
A: Awesome, they really are awesome. I’m not just saying that because I’m in China. I don’t know when these guys sleep. Their energy is insane. And how much passion they have is insane. They only like a few things, but they just love those things, like fashion, exercise or sports. Whatever it is, they love it. And that’s what I love about them. It’s just the energy here. It’s a nonstop passion for a lot of stuff.
Back in London, it’s not like that, there are a lot of lazy kids.
Q: How do you handle traditional Chinese events?
A: During the Chinese Lunar Year, I have to give out a lot hongbao (gift money). Every time I go home, I have to give my family hongbao. I’m a Chinese man. I look foreign, but I know how to be Chinese. And I want to be. My baby is Chinese. My wife is Chinese. I know how to do the holidays.
Q: How’s your pace of life?
A: It’s crazy, to be honest. As soon as I wake up, I check my phone and there are 20 or 30 messages there every morning. But do not get me wrong, I love it. I come from a hardworking family. It’s not like I wake up, “Oh, my God, I need to go to work.”
As soon as I wake up, I boom, “Let’s go and save the day, let’s get up.” If I come home late, it’s OK, because I work hard and make money. I am not the one of those people who’s going to sit at home and just do nothing. You’ve got to have a work ethic, especially in Shanghai. There is no one who’s going to pay for you.
I guess when I get older, I will slow down, but for the moment, when I am young, I want to make something for myself.
Q: So, what’s next?
A: Just to keep working hard. That’s it. Just keep going. Who knows? I just want to make my family proud of me, make my daughter proud of me. Maybe make some more babies in the future. That’s it. Just make people proud, that’s all I want to do. Support other people and see them doing well.”