Zulpikar Maimaitiali talks about 'Dangal', ready for Vijender Singh showdown
By Deepti Patwardhan | Express News Service | Published: 04th August 2017 08:04 AM |
MUMBAI: Zulpikar Maimaitiali and his father Maimaitiali, are locked in a world of their own, communicating in Uyghur language as they formulate an answer for the curious media. While Zulpikar is in a Scuderia Ferrari baseball cap, North Face jersey and assorted branded gear and is quick to smile, his father is wearing plain white tee and shorts and a stern expression. Shaped by different times and struggles, boxing has been their common ground.
“You know the film Dangal?” asks Zulpikar, who will take on Vijender Singh in Mumbai on Saturday. “That was my life! Early mornings, lots of hard work. I was alone, not like the two sisters in the movie. My father was a former boxer and my first coach.”
Their family hails from the Xinjiang province, which lies in the north-west of China and has faced decades of separatist trouble. Moreover, when Maimaitiali was growing up in a still-rigid communist China, boxing was a lost art. Chinese ruler Mao Zedong had banned the sport in the late 1950s, because it was deemed brutal. The ban was lifted in 1986.
“We had no opportunities in boxing,” says Maimaitiali. “It was difficult to get promoters in pro boxing. Even in amateurs, there were very few boxers.” China first competed at the 1992 Barcelona Games and claimed their first medal when Zou Shiming won bronze in Athens.
“Nowadays, there are lot of chances for boxers in China as long as you have potential,” he added. “It was natural for Zuli to take up boxing because he comes from a sports family. I taught him and I’m delighted to see him become a world-class fighter.”
Maimaitiali, who also doubles up as Zulpikar’s manager, had spotted his talent early on. At 23, Zulpikar, a southpaw, is one of the most promising boxers from the country and has been unbeaten in his nine professional bouts so far.
On Saturday, he will come across another undefeated fighter in Vijender. “They both have their record and their titles at stake,” said his trainer Julian Howell of the fight, which will see the WBO Oriental Super Middleweight champion Zulpikar go up against WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight champion Vijender.