An African man touted to be a “brave warrior of boxing” was knocked out by a Chinese monk in just 43 seconds at an international martials arts tournament in China.
- The Tanzanian boxer is an international student and only ever fought in 10 matches
- Organisers recruited foreign fighters to make the tournaments look “more international”
- Chinese netizens felt ashamed by the farce and questioned if the mix-up was deliberate
Chinese state media — who were quick to trumpet the news of the swift defeat and how it demonstrated the power of Chinese Kung Fu — later found out the African man was an international student who was reportedly paid 6,000 yuan ($1,200) by event sponsors.
The sponsors claimed they failed to verify the 30-year-old Tanzanian’s background, which was provided by his brokerage agency.
Last month’s “Six Country Boxing Championship” was organised by the central Henan province and held in Dengfeng city, known as China’s Kung Fu capital, where hundreds of thousands of people have learned the martial art.
In the pre-event marketing, organisers said the highlight would be a much-anticipated boxing match in the 80-kilogram class, between 51-year-old Shaolin disciple Shi Yanzi and the Tanzanian, known only by his first name, Gabriel.
“The brave warrior has a recent record of 15 games, with 14 wins and 1 loss,” said the announcer who introduced Gabriel.
The match ended in just 43 seconds with Gabriel’s defeat and several Chinese state media outlets highlighted the fact that “a black brave warrior of boxing” was defeated by a Shaolin monk.
“I only intended to go in the boxing ring to learn and exchange some skills with him and see if I could use more Shaolin Kung Fu techniques,” Mr Shi told China News after the match.
“But I didn’t expect to win him in a single round.
“My heavy punch and heavy kick might have landed on his ribs.”
‘Fake food, fake history, fake news … and now fake fighting’
But the media’s celebration of the monk’s seemingly incredible win was short lived.
A director of a boxing gym in China’s northern Liaoning province, known only by his surname Qiu, recognised Gabriel as an international student from a univeristy in Shenyang city who went to his martial arts school.
Mr Qiu told state media China Youth Daily that all of Gabriel’s matches ended in his defeat or even abstention, and that his boxing skills were “lower than that of our many amateur members”.
He said many competition organisers in the industry specifically recruited foreign fighters to make the tournaments look “more international” and that he had previously arranged three competitions for Gabriel.
“The [payment] was more than 1,000 yuan ($200) for each competition, regardless he wins the game or not,” he said, adding that he didn’t even make it to the third competition because he missed the train.
In the same China Youth Daily report, Gabriel clarified that he was not a “boxing master” and had only ever participated in ten competitions, including six games in China.
Many Chinese netizens said they felt ashamed by the farce and even questioned if the organisers deliberately matched the Shaolin monk against an amateur.
“Fake food, fake medicine, fake technology, fake news, fake history, fake theories … and even have fake fighting,” said one Weibo user with the nickname Liudana_Cilouhua.
“As an ordinary student who has just left school, he is just a boxing enthusiast. Why was he promoted to be a black boxing champion?” said a post by another user, Ouyang Kaka.
The organisers of the Six Country Boxing Championship defended the mix-up and claimed the match was only decided the day before the competition.
Shi Yanzi told China News after the match that “he didn’t enjoy the competition that much” and hoped to meet a stronger opponent next time.
By Christina Zhou and Bang Xiao