Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

20. Zou Shiming

Age: 27

Mao Zedong may have banned boxing, but now Beijing is hoping that the sport and its resident golden boy, Zou Shiming will bring glory to China. It looks like Zou has a good chance of winning. A native of hardscrabble Guizhou Province in China's far southwest, Zou was originally deemed, by the scientific standards that regulate Chinese sports, to have an insufficient arm length-to-height ratio for boxing. Zou punched his way to spot on his school team anyway. Now 27, Zou has since developed a characteristic, lightning-fast fighting style that helps him rack up points with rapid-fire jabs while keeping just out the reach of opponents. So far, the 5' 7" Zou has done a good job reestablishing China's presence in boxing. He's the first Chinese boxer to win the World Boxing Championship, the highest competition for amateurs, a feat he's accomplished twice. The 106-lb. light flyweight won China's first Olympic boxing medal, a bronze, at Athens in 2004; bigger things are expected in Beijing.