Macau: Boxing was banned in China under Mao Zedong because it was deemed too Western and too violent.
But if top promoter Bob Arum gets his way -- and he usually does -- the country will be the future of the sport.
"For any serious business person... it's a country of 1.4 billion people and it's a country that's emerging economically to be a real super power," said Arum, founder and chief executive of Las Vegas-based Top Rank promotions.
"It's a country where people are just starting to have the opportunity to sample what we in the West are used to, like professional boxing.
"I think if it's done right, this will be the premier audience for the sport of boxing in the world," Arum, 81, told reporters after staging a night of boxing at the grandiose The Venetian hotel-resort in the casino haven of Macau.
Arum has lumped his bets on China's two-time Olympic champion Zou Shiming, who was making his professional debut on Saturday. Top Rank estimated 300 million people in China would tune in live to watch the 31-year-old flyweight.
Zou defeated the unknown Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela on a unanimous points decision in their four-round non-title bout. The home hero reportedly picked up a cool $300,000 for his trouble.
The Zou-Valenzuela match-up got top billing even over a WBA/WBO world title fight.
"If it's done right, only if it's done right," Arum said of his undisguised ambition of tapping into China's vast population and their growing wealth.
"You can't give them junk, you have to give them quality and do it in a sensational place like The Venetian arena.
"You have to put the event on free television so it reaches the biggest possible audience in China, which is what we did here. It was on CCTV-5, it was on all the regional networks, it was on the Internet portal.
"So we reached everybody, and that is what we will continue to do. That's what we are going to do this summer, when we do another outstanding card here. "Zou Shiming is going to have a six-round fight and we are going to do two title fights.
"It will be a card that is really interesting and fan-friendly, and don't insult the people: do it at a high level."
Arum, whose fighters include Manny Pacquiao and three-time world champion Miguel Cotto, added: "People here want to see and feel what we do in Las Vegas, on the biggest possible stage, a Pacquiao fight and so forth.
"And that's what we gave them tonight. It cost a lot of money to do all those lights and all that sort of stuff, but that's part of the experience. And the people in China deserve that experience."
Writing in his column for British tabloid The Sun on the eve of Zou's professional bow, the boxing promoter Frank Warren conceded that "it seems the sport has chanced upon an untapped but ridiculously lucrative new market".
"Initially it will be dependent upon Zou delivering between the ropes," Warren wrote.
"But with Hall of Famer Bob Arum pulling the promotional strings, he is primed to hit the outside lane to a world-title challenge as early as 2014."