When Chris Algieri steps into the ring on Nov. 22 at 15,000-seat Cotai Arena at the Venetian Macao resort hotel in Macau, China, it's safe to say he will be in hostile territory. But even though WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao will be cheered by upward of 5,000 fans from his native Philippines, which is just over an hour away by air, that's not why the fight is in Macau.
Chinese flyweight Zou Shiming, who is on the undercard against Thailand's Kwanpichit OnesongchaiGym, "is the engine behind all of this activity in China," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "He's the poster boy."
The Pacquiao-Algieri pay-per-view card actually is part of Arum's long-term plan to develop the Chinese boxing market. Two events dovetailed neatly for Arum in early 2013 when he was contacted by the Venetian about staging a boxing program shortly before a representative for Shiming contacted him "out of the blue" about promoting the pro career of the two-time Olympic gold medalist from the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games.
Arum promoted Shiming's pro debut in April, 2013, and that led to a plan to do four cards per year, including one blockbuster show, in Macau, which is located on a peninsula at the southern edge of China less than 40 miles from Hong Kong. Pacquiao made his first appearance there against Brandon Rios last November, and the undercard featured Shiming, who has had all five of his pro fights at Cotai Arena.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm, and it played into our long-term plan to build boxing in mainland China," Arum said. "With the financial help of the Venetian, we started a weekly boxing magazine show for an hour and a half that goes throughout China, talking about boxing, old fights and worldwide fights. It shows fights on delay on a Tuesday night. Then, my Chinese partners and the Venetian decided to do our own professional live fights [on the mainland]."
Arum promoted a card in Shanghai last August and has another scheduled in December. He said Chinese president Xi Jinping has been supportive in a country where boxing was banned for many years under previous political regimes.
"But they had this kid Shiming, who won a gold medal in Beijing, of all places," Arum said. "That's what really started any type of resonance for boxing. Now, it's carried over."