Chinese boxer has big ambitions
Updated 11:05 pm, Wednesday, July 16, 2014Two journeys, one long and one short, have brought 6-foot-11 Taishan Dong here, ready to step into the boxing ring in San Francisco on Friday to make his professional debut.
Dong Jian Jun, 26, is from the northwest province of Gansu, China, and found his fighting name six years ago when he made the trek up Mount Taishan, one of the Five Great Mountains in China.
"When I reached the peak of this gigantic mountain and I looked down, I liked that feeling and I want to have it again when I am on the top" of the boxing world, Taishan said through a translator.
Then in December, the former basketball player and kickboxer stopped in a lawyer's office next door to his gym in Monterey Park (Los Angeles County) for some legal advice. Taishan met George Gallegos, who is not your everyday criminal and personal injury lawyer.
Gallegos is also a big boxing fan and mixed martial arts referee. He asked Taishan, in passing, what he wanted to do, and Gallegos said his mouth dropped when the giant mentioned boxing.
"It's bigger than a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me," Gallegos said. "What are the chances a 7-foot Chinese boxer who has some training, who's built like him, walks into your office and needs a manager?"
After six months of training, the 285-pound "Great Wall" will take on Ronny Hale (2-7) at Longshoremen's Hall on Fisherman's Wharf. The heavyweight bout is the first of three fights televised on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m.
The seven-card bout is being promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Don Chargin. The main event pits lightweight contender Mercito Gesta (27-1-1) from the Philippines against Luis Arceo (28-12-4) from Tijuana.
The weigh-in is Thursday at 2 p.m. at Madame Tussauds and is open to the public.
On Wednesday, Taishan got a kick out of seeing the wax figures of Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee and even tried to block Jeremy Lin's shot on a walking tour. Taishan, after all, was handpicked by Chinese officials at the age of 15 to be the next Yao Ming. But Taishan didn't need the translator on hand to assess his basketball skills - scrunching up his face and moving his hand in a seesaw motion.
Taishan, however, made a much better impression when he stepped into Glendale Fighting Club to work with former heavyweight and trainer John Bray. Bray has sparred with Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.
"He's a huge puncher who is learning how to box," Bray said. "He hits so hard that even when I am holding the cushion, my whole body shakes. Nobody hits like this kid.
"I want him to work off his jab and not just flail away Friday night. But he's a hard worker and very teachable, and if he picks up from where we left off with his training, we could have a star on our hands."
Said Taishan: "I will do my best and my performance will be the reward for the fans coming out."