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China Smith to Stage Comeback at Convention Center


BRADENTON – Bradenton's own China “the Dragon” Smith returns to the ring July 26 in the 10-round main event at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. Smith, a former standout running back at Sarasota's Riverview High who twice held the National Boxing Association's Heavyweight Championship, returns to the ring professionally for the first time since 2006.

The Dragon sports a record of 33-4 (26 KO's) and had won four of his last five bouts before stepping away from the ring for what ended up being a longer hiatus than he had planned. During the break, the fighter welcomed his third child into the family and also took over the boxing program at the Manatee PAL. The program had begun to slide into decline, but has since claimed multiple amateur titles, while providing a positive after school environment for area youth.

Throughout the first half of the last decade, Smith fought in the local area regularly, drawing big crowds at venues like Robart's Arena and the Sun Dome in Tampa. Though he's also no stranger to the road, having fought in places like Detroit, Chicago and even Aruba, the fighter says it's good to be back in front of his home crowd. 


"It's a beautiful thing," said Smith. "I've always had so much support from the local community - Sarasota, Bradenton, Palmetto, Tampa. I'm very happy to have the opportunity to make my return right here in my own backyard."

Though Smith has been on the shelf in terms of the pro game, he's still only 34, which is far from old in a division where top contenders routinely fight into their 40's. As the head boxing trainer at the Manatee County PAL, the fighter has kept active and looks to be in even better shape than his prime, having added 20 pounds of muscle and a rigorous nutritional regime.

The time off has also meant that Smith hasn't been absorbing punishment. His trainer, Tommy Keelen, says fans can count on seeing a whole new fighter.

"We've been training for a long time," said Keelen, who has been Smith's long-time assistant at the PAL. "China's continued to develop and is more complete as a fighter today."

Keelen says the biggest difference is the boxer's movement. Smith, who's naturally right-handed but fights from the southpaw stance, often squared up with opponents and relied on good head movement and deft slips to fight on the inside, sometimes mixing it up more than was necessary. 

"He's finally moving like a southpaw now," said Keelen. "That gives him a whole new dimension. Not only do fighters have to deal with a guy who has speed and power, but they're fighting a true lefty, which gives a lot of boxers problems. 


Keelen says an opponent is still being finalized. There are seven other pro bouts scheduled for the event. Tickets start at just $20. 


Boxer China Smith Takes His Fight Outside the Ring at Manatee P.A.L.

Published Tuesday, November 30, 2010 3:00 am


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