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Xiyan Zhang

Bantamweight Xiyan Zhang (Zhang Xi Yan or Zhang Xiyian) was born on April 22, 1980 in northeastern China's Hei Long Jiang Province.

Zhang first appeared on the international boxing scene as an amateur at the 2002 Women's World Championships held from October 21 to 27, 2002 in Antalya, Turkey.  An observer of the 64-kg final in which Zhang defeated Marzia Davide of Italy wrote: "I watched in amazement again when the bantamweight final took place. In the ring Zhang Xiyian, a 22-year-old student from Beijing, was whipping in bolo punches - a complex and demanding form of loose uppercut, supposedly originating from the machete action of men in Cuban sugar plantations. Most modern trainers would have difficulty describing the shot, let alone teaching it. I asked her if she had ever seen film of Henry Armstrong, the Thirties legend who was the master of the bolo. 'No,' the translator told me, 'she is watching Mike Tyson.' It is possible that Xiyian's ability has something to do with pure blind determination. After she left the ring, tearful men surrounded her. I asked the translator why everybody was so emotional. She asked Xiyian. This is what she told me: 'Her father was a weightlifter. A great Chinese sportsman but he never won the world title. He put all his hope in his only daughter and he asked her to win a world title for him. She picked boxing.' I asked which one was her father. 'None of them. He died last year, that man is her uncle, her father's brother.' I left the new world champion and her uncle crying. I think the ambassador had flown in from Ankara the night before; the fight was certainly shown in China."

At the 2003 Asian Women's Boxing Championship in Hisar, Zhang lost in the bantamweight semifinal to Ha Son Bi of North Korea by a 24-22 margin.  Ha, the defending champion and `best boxer' of the Bangkok Asians, fought a superb battle and kept herself at a distance, fending off many punches from Zhang while connecting two more than Zhang could in the closest fight of any two boxers in the tournament.

In the 54-kg bracket of the Women's World Boxing tournament held from April 27 to May 2 200? in Tonsberg, Norway, Zhang (CHN) defeated Nicola Adams of England 28-7 in her prelinimary, then stopped Camilla Karlsson of Sweden RSCO in the 2nd round oif her semifinal before stopping Sarita Devi of India RSCO in the 2nd round of the final. 

Zhang made her pro debut on December 24, 2005 at EXPO Garden Hotel in Kunming, China with a four-round decision over another debvut boxer from China, Tian Meng.

In her second pro fight on April 15, 2006, in Chengdu, China, she won a 10-round unanimous (96-94,97-93,100-91) decision over highly regarded Alicia Ashley of New York to win the vacant WIBA Bantamweight world title. Ashley fell to 12-7-1 (1 KOs) with the loss.

Zhang (L) vs Bianchini in November 2006

On November 4, 2006 at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo, Monaco, Stefania Bianchini (110½ lbs) of Italy retained the WBC Flyweight title with a ten-round split draw against Zhang (111½ lbs). The fight was scored 96-94 for Zhang by Robin Dolpierre, 97-92 for Bianchini by Fabian Guggenheim while Belgian judge Daniel Van de Wiele scored it a 95-95 draw. Referee Richie Davies had his hands full to keep the fight going as there was a lot of holding and clinching, particularly by Bianchini who had a point deducted under the WBC cut-rule for an accidental head-butt in the seventh round. According to WBAN's correspondent Ewan Whyte, Zhang was seeking to land the big one throughout the fight while Bianchini clinched constantly and tried to exploit her greater experience. The endless clinching apparently exhausted the patience of neutrals in the crowd. The result was greeted with derisive whistles when the scores were announced, driving the promoter to take the microphone and appeal for the spectators to remain calm “out of respect for the fighters”. Bianchini moved her record to 15-2-2 (2 KO's) with this result.

Although Zhang had fought well against two world class boxers in her last two pro fights, she moved on to face a series of opponents more worth of a raw beginner in the pro sport.

On February 16, 2007 at Salle de Fetes in Carouge, Switzerland, Zhang (114¾ lbs) won a four-round unanimous (40-37,40-37,40-37) decision over debut fighter Kristina Rozhkova (110¼ lbs) from Ukraine.

On February 25, 2007 at Palais des Sports in Elancourt, France, Zhang TKO'd Iliana Boneva of Bulgaria in the third round of a scheduled six-rounder.  In the opening round, Zhang hurt Boneva with a perfect left hook to the body. In an exhibition of
aggressiveness and sharp punching, Zhang dominated the first two rounds and forced the referee to stop the contest in the third to save Boneva from further punishment. Boneva fell to 0-10-1.

On April 17, 2007 at Circus in Donetsk, Ukraine, Zhang TKO'd pro debuter Irina Drozdova of Feodosia, Ukraine in the second round of a scheduled eight-rounder.

Mazelanik (L) vs Zhang in July 2007

On July 25, 2007 at Palestra Nuova in Ascona, Switzerland, Zhang (113¼ lbs) won a clear ten-round unanimous (97-93,97-93,99-91) decision over 20-year-old Pia Mazelanik (114¾ lbs) of  Dorsten, Germany for the WIBC Junior Bantamweight title.  Mazelanik fell to 4-2-1 (0 KO's) with this loss.

Zhang vs Ha-Na Kim (at right) in October 2007

On October 9, 2007 at Sichuan Statium in Chengdu, China, Zhang (115 lbs) won a ten-round unanimous (98-90,98-89,97-91) decision over Ha-Na Kim (113½ lbs) of Ilsan Gu, South Korea for the WBA Junior Bantamweight title. Zhang started fast with impressive hand speed and had Kim on the canvas in the first 30 seconds. With the partisan crowd cheering her on, she tried for a first round stoppage, buckling Kim's knees trice more, but she could not put the Korean away and Kim regained her composure. Kim came back in the second with roundhouse rights. In the fifth round, Kim turned the tide with a right hand counter that put Zhang down, but that was the high point for the champion as Zhang never looked back once she had recovered from the knockdown, coasting to the win with accurate counters, foot work and lateral movement. "I knew that I won when the tenth round started," said Zhang, adding, "My aim is to defend the gold belt and win more championships." Zhang became the first Chinese boxer of either gender to win a major world title while Kim fell to 8-2 (3 KO's) with the loss.

On December 14, 2007 at Palestra Nuova in Ascona, Switzerland, what should have been a routine appearance by Zhang (116¾ lbs) against Viktorya Olenik (116½ lbs) of Ukraine in a six-rounder turned sour when Zhang injured and lost by a 56-58,56-59,55-59 unanimous decision.

On February 26, 2009 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan, Manami Arima (114 lbs) of Tokyo, Japan won a ten-round split (97-95,98-92,95-96) decision over Zhang (113¾ lbs) for the WBA Junior bantamweight title. According to Joe Koizumi of FightNews.com: "Tsunami ... kept on stalking defending champ Zhang Xi Yan, a Chinese southpaw, and overcame her early deficit on points to earn a split decision ... It was such a hairline verdict as either could have been the winner ... It was the very first WBA female world title bout ever held in Japan, a good market for smaller divisions. Regardless of the debatable decision, it was a very good contest where the skillful footworker (Zhang) and the non-stop puncher (Tenkai) displayed all they had. It might become a beginning of solving our discrimination against the women’s boxing. From the start Zhang made good use of her speed in punching and moving side-to-side, displaying sharp combinations to the cautious challenger. The braided-haired Chinese, 28, was in command in the first three rounds, as the short-haired Japanese, four years her junior, didn’t start her engine yet. The fourth saw Tenkai, ex-IFBA bantam ruler, recklessly began boring in and connected with solid left hooks to the lefty champ’s cheek. Making full use of her feet, Zhang dominated the fifth with versatile combinations upstairs and downstairs, while Tenkai missed more powerful but less accurate combos. The cute Japanese girl accelerated her attack from the sixth onward and kept stalking the elusive champ to occasionally score with her trademark left hooks. Zhang rode a bicycle to avert mixing up with the aggressive and pugnacious challenger, who attempted to work the body and stop the champ’s still shifty footwork.  Zhang kept retreating to keep her distance, but Tenkai continually went forward to throw solid combinations in round seven and eight. The champ, still more technically excellent, often threw her busy punches without hitting with her knuckle part, while the challenger showed her abundant stamina and kept throwing solid shots to the face and belly. Aware of the contest being very close, Tenkai desperately tried to come close to the cagey champ who kept moving and attempted to counter the willing mixer. The Japanese seemed to dominate the last two sessions, which might or might not offset her early deficits on the scores. The jubilant winner and the first WBA female champ Tenkai cried for joy, and said, “I’m very happy to show my power. I wish to express my whole-hearted thanks to my supporters."  Zhang fell to 7-2-1 (2 KO's) while Arima improved to 13-3 (4 KO's). 

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Page last updated: Friday, November 06, 2015


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