By Darryn Albert –
Some of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all-time were mammoths of men. Joe Louis was 6’1″ and 197 pounds. Sonny Liston clocked in at 6’1″, 214. Muhammad Ali was a mean 6’3″, 210. George Foreman measured up 6’3″ and 217 pounds. Lennox Lewis was 6’4″, 220. And in more modern times, the Klitschko brothers are in the range of 6’7″ and 245 pounds apiece. All of these great fighters were larger than life figures, giants among us. They carried a certain aura, a certain command of the room that made them these imposing, almost mythically so, both in and out of the ring. But what if I were to tell you that there’s a man coming up in the heavyweight division that would dwarf all those legendary fighters. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Taishan Dong.
By now, you or may not have heard about Dong, the Chinese fighter heralded by some as the next big thing in the heavyweight division (no pun intended). He tips the scales at a staggering 7 feet and 287 pounds. Wow. Go back and read those measurements again. And let it sink in. I’ll wait……………………(twiddles thumbs)…………………………..Has it sunk in yet? Good. Because the sport of boxing has never seen anything quite like Dong. The 26-year old fighter hails from the province of Gansu in China and even if he’s had but one professional fight, the hype surrounding him is enormous, perhaps based on sheer size and potential alone. You think about all of the advantages a fighter like him would have on paper. Reach advantage (84″ in case you’re wondering). Punching power. Physical intimidation. Ability to withstand blows. It’s astounding really. And if Dong is able to hone his considerable physical gifts and turn himself into a devastating fighter? Well they just might have to fold professional boxing all together.
Now there’s not a lot of video of Dong available on the Internet to scrutinize mostly because he’s only fought professionally once (a 2nd round TKO of one Alex Rozman of San Francisco) but from that fight alone, you can see a ton of potential. Dong isn’t as immobile as you might think and actually exhibited modest footwork and movement around the ring, especially for a man of his size. He has a destructive right jab capable of sending an opponent to the canvass if it connects (which it actually did against Rozman). He’s blessed with good instincts and knows how to counter-punch (though a lot of his counter shots didn’t actually connect). Dong also isn’t a timid fighter as he was often the first to initiate his attack. He maintains his ground in the ring and is able to use his size to his advantage and bully opponents. One can definitely see a lot of promise in Taishan Dong.
However, like with any young, raw fighter, Dong has a lot of things to work on. His offensive attack isn’t the most impressive: his arsenal so far is mostly basic 1-2 combos and hooks as he relies more on punching power than actually boxing an opponent. Some of his punches are slow and predictable and he also didn’t exhibit much head movement, leaving himself more susceptible to shots upstairs than I would have liked (though in his defense, he might be better off focusing on offense since opponents will have a hard time punching up to reach his head area without tiring). He had a tendency to get flustered when his opponent threw, turning his head away in an attempt to get out of the line of fire and trying to parry opposing blows with an open palm, two habits experienced fighters would exploit to death. Also, while his footwork is decent for a man his size, it’s obviously not one of his strengths since he has to carry that frame around the ring. Additionally, I’d worry about his stamina and ability to go into later rounds since this fight only went 2 rounds and he seems like he would tire easily.
All in all, Dong might be the prototypical high-risk, high-reward fighter. His upside is enormous (literally and figuratively) and size alone could take this guy very far. However, he’s still incredibly raw, has some inherent flaws, and his sample size is too small to pass final judgement from. If I had to take a guess, it’s that Dong will have a high floor in terms of potential thanks to the sheer physical advantages he’ll have against virtually any opponent who gets into the ring with him. But I don’t think he will be a gamechanger in the heavyweight division because once he starts running into established talent that doesn’t get easily intimidated and keeps the fight a methodical one in the center of the ring, he will no longer able to rely on his size to bully opponents and will be forced to box (something I’m not all that sure he can do yet). My first instinct when I first heard about Dong was that a guy like Stiverne or Deontay Wilder would destroy him. And after watching him fight, I still think that’s true. But with a little hard work and a lot of hours in the gym honing his technique, Taishan Dong just might prove me wrong and live up to all this hype that he’s generating. Only one thing’s for sure and that’s that I’ll definitely be watching Taishan Dong the next time he steps into the ring. And you should too.