Boxing was banned in China under Mao Zedong because it was deemed too Western and too violent.
But, top promoter Bob Arum believes the country could be the future of the sport. His company, Top Rank Boxing, held five big events in Macau last year and two on the mainland. He said they have 12 planned for this year.
Arum believes if fights are done right, China will be the premier audience for boxing in the world.
"So many Chinese are emerging from poverty and joining the middle class. They are looking for ways to spend their entertainment dollars," Arum said.
The legendary promoter told KNPR's State of Nevada that offering the boxing match for free in China is a way to build an audience in that country.
"I don't want to even think pay per view, which shrinks an audience, until I know that as many Chinese as possible are watching boxing and the only way to get that done is by offering it free on national TV," Arum said.
He said moving boxing from network TV to premium cable channels hurt the sports popularity in the United States.
When asked about whether the rise of mixed martial arts and UFC had hurt the sport as well, Arum denies there is a problem. He says the fans of both sports don't cross over.
He also told KNPR's State of Nevada that Top Rank Boxing, which promotes boxing superstars like Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, would never promote a UFC fight under his watch.
"I think it is dreadful. I don't like it. Why waste time promoting something you're not involved in?" Arum said.
He believes the future of the sport is beyond American shores. The new audience and new fighters are coming from China, Eastern Europe and Russia.
Bob Arum, boxing promoter
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