Title-winning performances by Chinese women are making a strong statement on the rise of female fighters in a sport that places overwhelming emphasis on masculinity.
Using fast combinations of jabs and hooks to confidently dictate the pace, "Killer Bee" Chuang Kai-ting danced to a five-round unanimous decision over Muay Thai specialist Yodcherry Sityodtong on Saturday to win the inaugural One Super Series kickboxing world atomweight title at Guangzhou's Tianhe Gymnasium.
The 23-year-old channeled Muhammad Ali's fabled footwork en route to sending a strong message to the swelling female fanbase for the combat sport in Asia.
"I want to tell all the girls that nothing is impossible even when it comes to fighting in the ring as long as you dare to take the first step," said Chuang, who hails from Chinese Taipei.
Cheered by thousands of spectators in the heart of Guangzhou, Chuang, a three-time world kickboxing champion, executed a sophisticated fight plan, avoiding Yodcherry's powerful roundhouse kicks while forcing the Thai teenager against ropes with a myriad of punches throughout the five-round main event on the 10-bout card that was One's second show in Guangzhou.
"I couldn't have done it without the strong support from my team and the crowd here in Guangzhou," said Chuang. "I could've finished earlier with a KO ... I feel like I still have a lot of room to improve, especially in terms of pace and the strength of my punch-kick combinations."
Chuang's grit was honed by a tough upbringing, and she's defied long odds since her birth.
Born into a broken family, she was abandoned by her parents as a baby before her grandmother adopted her from an orphanage.
To help ease the heavy financial burden on her grandma, Chuang took up boxing training at age 16 in the hope of winning a university scholarship.
Her natural talent, coupled with mental toughness, caught the eye of former pro Yaun Wang-chung, a coach at the Iron Boxing Gym, and drove her to launch a professional career.
Before Chuang improved her pro record to 17-5 on Saturday, her fellow female fighter Xiong Jingnan successfully defended her women's world strawweight title by unanimous decision against Argentine challenger Laura Balin in Macao on June 23, cementing the surging status of China's female fighters.
In January, Xiong, a martial artist from Shandong province, upset Singapore's undefeated Tiffany Teo via fourth-round TKO to claim the title.
"I just want to prove the sport is fair and women can fight to stardom if you keep working hard," said Xiong, 30, who formerly boxed in China's State-run system.
After a stellar 12-1 run competing domestically, Xiong made a successful debut on One's global stage with an impressive knockout of April Osenio last December and has become one of the Singapore-based promotion's highest paid female fighters.
Chuang, looking up to Xiong as a role model, expects more Chinese women to join them in the international combat sports spotlight.
"Do not run away from your dreams because of fear. The sweat and the pain you go through is nothing compared to what you will get from it," she said.
(Source: China Daily)