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Filipino boxing hero Pacquiao launches bid to discover next Chinese world champion

Filipino star Manny Pacquiao, boxing’s only eight-division world champion, recently made an effort to lure Irish mixed martial artist Conor McGregor into a second boxing bout through a social media. (AFP)
BEIJING: Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao hopes to unearth the next Chinese world champion and help grow the sport with an academy in the largely untapped country.
The 38-year-old, who controversially lost his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title to Australian Jeff Horn in July, was in Beijing this week.
He and Chinese sports-development firm Dancing Sports held a signing ceremony that included plans to build a Manny Pacquiao International Boxing Academy in the capital, the company said.
Zhou Wenxin, chairman of Dancing Sports, said their tie-up would deepen Chinese-Philippine relations in boxing and beyond.
The academy will draft in coaches from abroad to help develop Chinese boxing, which has never had a truly world-class fighter. There is no public timeline for when it will be built.
China’s most famous boxer, Zou Shiming, lost his WBO flyweight belt when he was knocked out by Japan’s unfancied Sho Kimura in his first defense in July.
When Pacquiao’s plans for China were first announced in 2014, he said that he believed the partnership could help thaw frosty ties between the Philippines and China, who were engaged in a territorial maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
Relations have since improved considerably under current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
At the time, Pacquiao defended the decision to open a boxing academy in China instead of his own country.
“In the Philippines we don’t have a problem (producing good boxers),” said Pacquiao, a hero in his home country and also a senator.