Chop seller enters the ring to prove that boxing is an art

People living in a community inspired by Confucius theory, especially in China, will regard boxing as a violent sport, but Zhu Yijun is eager to promote boxing in China.
Zhao Yiwei / Ti Gong

Zhu Yijun practices boxing in the boxing club.

People living in a community inspired by Confucius theory, especially in China, will regard boxing as a violent sport that most of people would be reluctant to practice in their spare time or watch on television. Parents would be annoyed if their children played boxing video games.

Some people changed their minds with the success of Chinese professional Zou Shiming and lost their bias against boxing, even taking it up as an activity. However, boxing still has a long way to go to achieve great popularity in China.

But there are some who are eager to promote boxing to the public in China, aiming to demolish the negative idea of the sport.

The 27-year-old boxing fan Zhu Yijun is among them. In his eyes, boxing is not only a sport that can keep him healthy, but an essential part of his lifestyle.

Zhu is an Internet celebrity, or wanghong. If you do a search for his name, various news reports will show up, including one video from Shanghai’s documentary channel. It tells of his tough training periods.

Eight years ago, he started to practice boxing in his spare time at Xiaolong Boxing Club. Yang Xiaolong, the club’s coach, who is also the leader of the first Chinese boxing team, spotted Zhu’s potential so much that he quickly encouraged Zhu to be his student, coaching him at the club for free.

Although Zhu was taking up the sport at a relatively old age, his devotion to boxing led to great improvement. In order to concentrate on boxing, he even quit his job, triggering a family disagreement.

“My parents are very traditional so their expectation on me is to work in the bank, government or company listed on the Fortune Global 500,” said Zhu. “They disagreed with me about giving up a formal job to focus on boxing. A huge gap appeared between us. But I had made up my mind to practice boxing.”

Since then, Zhu has made boxing his career. But in the beginning he had little money for everyday expenses. So Zhu decided to make a living by selling pork chops. He trained during the day and sold pork chops at night.

To make a delicious pork chop, it is important to soften the meat before cooking. Usually, people use the back of a knife or the bottom of beer bottle for this purpose. Zhu used his fists, and that became an essential ingredient of his pork chops.

“People thought that I used my fists to practice boxing while cooking, but using fists to soften the meat is convenient and fast,” Zhu said.

The food stand became more and more popular.

“One time, coach O, the coach to world famous boxer Roy Jones, came to taste the pork chops,” Zhu recalled.

“He told me the pork chops were the most delicious he had ever had. Then he wanted to be my apprentice to learn how to cook it. In return, he would guide me to do energy exercises.

”The food stand gained a high reputation among eaters, even attracting customers from the city’s Songjiang District and even Shandong Province in north China. He had never imagined, as an amateur cook, that his food would find favor with so many.

Zhu thought his food was no different to that of others but he put his heart and soul into his cooking and used the best ingredients, thus appealing to an abundance of customers.

Zhao Yiwei / Ti Gong

Zhu was spotted by his coach Yang Xiaolong and started practicing boxing since 2009. Since then, he trained during the day and sold pork chops at night. Now he is a boxing coach, aiming to promote this sport to the public.

Zhu’s diligence is now ensuring his success in boxing.

In order to concentrate on the sport, Zhu closed his food stand to become a coach at the Mr Bully Boxing Club in Jiading. Over the past several years, he has witnessed his students’ improvements and concluded that he should promote the sport, helping more people to understand that boxing is an art, not a battle between gangs.

Boxing was a turning point for Zhu’s student surnamed Wu. His life was soared since he took up boxing. Before that, he didn’t know the meaning of life and was depressed all the time. However, everything changed since he became a boxer.

“When he practiced boxing, he was absorbed in the sport and had a delighted feeling that he had never experienced before,” said Zhu. “Since then, he became positive about life and met his girlfriend in the boxing club.”

Zhao Yiwei / Ti Gong

The picture was taken when Zhu’s child was one year old. Zhu has planned to encourage his son to practice boxing in the future.

Although Zhu’s son is only one year old, he already has a rough plan for his child’s boxing exercise.

“Sport also changed my life. When I was a kid, I needed to get the drip in hospital every week to cure my disease,” Zhu recalled. “Ever since I took part in sports, I’m getting healthier and no longer go to the hospital.”

Every day Zhu gives a lesson to around 20 students on average, most of who came with the view to lose weight but finally developed a passion on boxing. Now more and more people are coming to the club to take up boxing, which is also Zhu’s hope — promoting boxing in China.

Zhu said he wishes more Chinese, especially the older generation like his parents, could participate in boxing to improve their quality of life.

“As a sport, boxing has a series of rules to protect the players. It is a hand-to-hand combat, but various movements will appear, which is the charm of boxing,” Zhu said.

Zhu’s target is to expand the popularity of boxing. To that end he is devoted to working as a coach, steady and positive about his ambition.

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