A celebrated Chinese famous ballet dancer has scored a knockout with young boxing fans at the Naenae Boxing Academy.
Li Cunxin, whose bestselling autobiography Mao's Last Dancer was made into a blockbuster film in 2009, yesterday visited Naenae to speak to the club's youngsters.
He was in town to speak at the Naenae Youth Charitable Trust black tie dinner on Thursday night, which academy coach Billy Graham helped to organise.
Mr Graham said it was an honour to have such a well-regarded speaker address the dinner, and attend his boxing club the next day.
"I asked Keith Quinn who was the best speaker in the world. We wanted the No 1. And for no extra charge he comes and talks to my boys. It's a big thing."
Cunxin said he was happy to oblige. "The reason I said yes was [because of] what Billy's trying to do. A lot of the boys have come from difficult backgrounds, like I did."
He answered a series of question from the club members and their parents about what it took to succeed. Success in any endeavour required mental toughness to overcome obstacles and endure pain, with 95 per cent of any achievement coming from passion, drive and tenacity, he said.
The two pursuits of ballet and boxing weren't so different. "They're different sports, obviously. But they are both physical and they both require incredible work rate and a similar road map for success."
Born into poverty in rural China, Cunxin was selected by Madame Mao's cultural advisers at the age of 11 to begin a harsh seven-year training regime at the Beijing Dance Academy. He later defected to the United States, and now lives in Australia.
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