• Chinese boxers remember Muhammad Ali's contribution to the revival of the sport in China.

Chinese boxers remember Muhammad Ali's contribution to the revival of the sport in China. (Photo : Getty Images)

Chinese boxers are paying their respects to boxing legend Muhammad Ali who served as their inspiration and the savior of the sport that was previously banned in China.

After Ali passed away last week at the age of 74, thousands of people in different countries mourned the loss of one of the greatest boxers the world has ever known.

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Chinese boxers in particular are expressing their gratitude to the boxing legend, who Aljazeera says was instrumental in the revival of the sport that was previously banned in the country by Mao Zedong.

How Ali Revived Boxing in China

Young boxers today may not know it, but Ali is known to have helped bring back the sport in China.

According to Aljazeera, boxing was previously not welcome in China with Chinese leaders hesitant to expose the citizens to a symbolic part of the Western culture.

In fact, it was banned by the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong in 1959 following a death of a boxer while fighting in the ring.

Aside from that, the relationship of China and the United States following Richard Nixon's historic trip to Beijing in 1972 had been "in a hesitant and somewhat turbulent manner," per Harry Harding's book, "A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China Since 1972."

But after Ali became the first foreign athlete to visit China in 1979, boxing regained its previous glory in the country.

"Muhammad Ali has not only given them guidance on technique, but also restored the hope and faith that inspired the boxers to be determined and committed [to the sport]," Shanghai boxing champion Xiong Xin said.

Since then, many other Chinese boxers look up to Ali, including 23-year-old Hong Kong rising boxing star So Po Sang.

"Ali's lifestyle inspires me. You need to learn discipline and work hard--no excuses," he told the outlet.

Muhammad Ali's Life

Born as Cassius Clay, Ali is now being considered one of the greatest athletes of all time.

According to a tribute article from China.org, Ali began joining amateur boxing matches in 1954 and pursued a career in the professional ring in 1960 during the summer Olympics held in Rome.

At the time, he boxed his way through the Light Heavyweight championship, where he won a gold medal.

Aside from his "brilliance, brashness and determination" inside the ring, the famous boxer also had an uncanny way of being the darling of the crowd with the short rhyming poems he used to make to predict the round when he expects to defeat his opponent.

Boxing aside, Ali was also known for his vocal viewpoint on the matter of fighting in Vietnam in 1967, where he refused to get involved in the killing.

"There is one hell of a lot of difference between fighting in the ring and going to war in Vietnam," he said at the time. "Boxing is nothing like going to war with machine guns, bazookas, hand grenades and bomber airplanes. My intention is to box and win a clean fight. But in war the intention is to kill, kill, kill and continue killing innocent people."