Fanlong’s Transition to Championship Level
By: Kirk Jackson
Following a long path of fighting – in which includes an extensive amateur background, undefeated challenger Meng Fanlong (15-0, 9 KO’s), successfully transitioned into the professional ranks and positioned himself for a shot at the light heavyweight world title and for a chance to make history.
Also known in the boxing ring as “Cold Blood,” Fanlong most recently defeated Adam Deines of Germany, via unanimous decision in the IBF light heavyweight, eliminator bout, at the Wynn Palace in Macau, China.
With this noteworthy victory, Fanlong becomes the mandatory challenger of IBF light heavyweight champion, Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO’s). This is a historic moment for the Fanlong, as he will become the first Chinese fighter to compete for the light heavyweight world title.
Boxing Insider caught up with Fanlong to gather his thoughts about his upbringing, transition to the United States, potential showdown against Artur Beterbiev and other interesting topics.
• Name: Pronounced as Fanlong Meng or Meng Fanlong.
• Nick Name: “Cold Blood.”
• Hometown: Chi Feng City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China.
• Date of birth: February 5, 1988.
• Division: Light heavyweight.
• Stance: Southpaw.
• Record: 15-0, (9 KO’s).
Awards and Accomplishments:
• On January 17, 2015, Fanlong made his professional debut at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut, tallying a majority decision victory over Marcellus Yates.
• Represented (Chinese National Team) as a (Light Heavyweight) during 2012 London Summer Olympics and advanced to the Round of 16.
• IBF Intercontinental Light Heavyweight Title (2017).
• WBO Oriental Light Heavyweight Title (2017).
• Silver Medalist – Asian Amateur Boxing Championships (2011).
• Bronze Medalist – Asian Games (2010).
• Lives and trains in Bloomfield, N.J., but regularly visits his wife, Yajuan, and daughter, Xinzhu in China.
• Favorite boxer of all-time is Roy Jones Jr. and enjoys watching old video clips of Jones Jr.’s fights on YouTube.
• Enjoys watching Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward and Naoya Inoue.
• Likes listening to Mongolian music.
Boxing Insider (BI): Congratulations on your recent victory, how do you feel?
Fanlong Meng (FM): Thank you. I’m feeling very well now.
(BI): Can you speak about the fight, we know this victory holds great significance as you are now the mandatory challenger for the IBF light heavyweight title.
(FM): This fight is so far the most significant fight in my career. Defending my IBF intercontinental title is one thing, another thing is that I got the title shot.
(BI): Do you anticipate facing Artur Beterbiev next? Has there been discussions on a possible encounter in the near future?
(FM): Now that I’m the mandatory challenger, I think the possibility of facing him is extremely high. This is what keeps me going. Me and my team, have had a few discussions on the timing of it, but no matter what happens I will be prepared.
(BI): Without revealing the game plan, anything you notice as far as weaknesses you can exploit?
(FM): The only thing I could say is that there is no perfect fighter in this world. Everybody is beatable, if you find the right strategy and stick with it. This is what makes the sport of boxing an exciting one.
(BI): If you’re able to defeat IBF Champion Artur Beterbiev, you’ll make history becoming the first Chinese boxer to earn the world professional light heavyweight belt and the fourth world champion boxer of Chinese descent. Can you speak about the great significance for this feat and what it means to you?
(FM): It means everything to me. In competitive sport there is no number two. You have to be the number one guy to receive all the acknowledgment. China has been looking for a champion for a long time, and there have been a few. But people look at Chinese boxers with the impression of them all being under featherweight. I want to change that. This fight will be my chance.
(BI): How do you feel your accomplishments and the recent success of the other Chinese world champions impact the landscape of boxing across China?
(FM): I think you are talking about (Xu) Can. He is hell of a fighter, coming to Houston and beating (Jesus) Rojas; then successfully defended his title in China against (Shun) Kubo. He is the new face of boxing in China and he is a friend of mine. I respect his effort and wish him the best.
❖ Xu Can (17-2, 3 KO’s) is the WBA (Regular) featherweight champion.
(BI): Do you feel pressure in your attempt to capture a world title?
(FM): I don’t feel that way. I know that just do what I do and never give up, I will make big things happen.
(BI): From what I understand and please correct me if I’m wrong, while training in preparation for your fights, you train/live in the United States? Do you travel back to China afterwards?
(FM): I have been training and living in the US for a few years, actually since I turned pro. I am based in New Jersey. It’s very easy to get high level of sparring here, which benefits me a lot. I do come back to China, to take some time off from fight to fight. I also went back home, inner Mongolia, after the Macau fight.
(BI): Describe your hometown. What were some of your experiences growing up?
(FM): I was born and raised in Inner Mongolia, China. It’s on the boarder of China and the Republic of Mongolia. It’s famous for being an agricultural area of China, as known for vast grasslands, where cows and sheep are bred. Mongolians love competitive sports, especially wrestling. That might be one of the reasons I started boxing.
(BI): Can you provide greater insight as to how you got into boxing? What attracted you to the sport and was there a specific moment when you realized this is what you want to do?
(FM): I went to a sport school when I was a kid. After a few months, I chose boxing as my main sport to practice. I had no idea why I made that choice, I think this is life. Then I started to grow and captured medals in regional and national events, I know I had the right choice.
(BI): Expand on your transition of moving to and training in America? What was the deciding factor for relocation and why New Jersey specifically?
(FM): Living and training in the US was part of my career plan to start with. America has the top boxing coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and sparring partners. Business wise, you have to be recognized by the US market in order to expand your influence globally. This is the Mecca of boxing. New Jersey is close to New York, where a lot of great boxing resources can be found. It’s convenient in commuting. Living here is not that stressed like in the city, but you pretty much get everything.
(BI): How often do you visit back home?
(FM): It depends. I always go home after a bigger fight is over. To me family is number one. I have to keep going back home to see my family. They have been supporting me throughout the years.
(BI): Are there similarities to Bloomfield, New Jersey and Chifeng, Inner Mongolia?
(FM): Huge difference. I’m a home person and Chifeng will always be my home. Bloomfield is where I live and train temporarily during my career. However, I got used to Bloomfield more and more each day now.
(BI): What are some of the most noticeable differences? What are the most difficult transitions?
(FM): Of course winning the IBF intercontinental title and becoming the mandatory challenger is one of the biggest. Others such as being a gold medalist of Chinese boxing championships since 2008, the first champion of China Boxing League, gold medal of Chinese National Games in 2013. The most difficult transition would be catching the rhythm of professional boxing. Amateur boxing is three rounds of fast pace, punch after punch, while pro is more about the strategy and rhythm.
(BI): Have you thought about relocating to anywhere else in the United States – for training or convenience of living purposes?
(FM): It could be possible. I would like to see different places and meet new people. I like to travel a lot even if I’m in China. Just to see what’s new.
(BI): From what I understand, Roy Jones is one of your favorite fighters. What is it about Roy Jones that attracted you to his style?
(FM): Yes he is still my favorite. He is just too smooth and his style is so enjoyable to watch. I never wanted to learn his style but it doesn’t stop me watching him.
(BI): Are there specific traits, punches or tools you implement from Roy’s style?
(FM): I enjoy watching his fight but his style is too difficult to learn. It’s his own thing. No one else can do it. However, he is the one who fights with his brain, not only power and things like that. He uses his brain, intelligence, talents, everything all together. I believe a great athlete knows how to use his brain, not just some of his abilities he depends on.
(BI): Aside from Roy jones, are there other fighters who inspired you or who you admire?
(FM): Arthur Beterbiev, big inspiration…
No to answer your question seriously, I’m a fan of watching boxing videos. I watch videos back in the 40s and 50s. Some of the boxers, I can’t call their name because my English is not good, but if you show me a picture, I know what punch he got hit with during a round. I am inspired by a lot of fighters, not just individual, but also some of the movement he does; might even be a slight change in his footwork, that inspires me in the gym and I will learn something new.
(BI): Anyone currently fighting that impresses you?
(FM): GGG (Gennady Golovkin), Canelo (Saul Alvarez), (Naoya) Inoue from Japan, Andre Ward, etc…
(BI): I love your style of boxing; very smart, composed and calculated. You move around the ring well and pick your shots. You’re very accurate and elusive. I imagine you’re a nightmare for your opponents?! Can you breakdown your style, how you developed your style?
(FM): I was more of a counter-puncher in my amateur years. I liked to lure my opponents to where I wanted them to be and fire. I tried to add a lot of new things since I turned pro. Because just being a counter-puncher is not going to win fights in a lot of cases. So I have been developing a style, which has everything in there, so that I can adjust according to the situation in the ring.
(BI): How did you develop the moniker “Cold Blood?”
(FM): “Cold Blood” is my personality in the ring. Being “Cold Blood” means not having to concern about the opponent, fans, spotlights, yelling and booing. It’s also my habit of being focused and being able to tell if there is something wrong with my opponent.
(BI): What is your greatest trait as a fighter?
(FM): I think I’m calm and focused. My punches are quick and sharp.
(BI): You have an extensive amateur background. Fighting styles typically change, transitioning from the amateurs to the professional ranks due to different variables. Can you speak on your experiences adjusting from amateur to professional?
(FM): It’s pretty hard for the transitioning. Muscles memories are very difficult to change. I think every professional boxer who has a long amateur career, knows what I’m trying to say. It took me a long time to transition and I’m still learning. This should never stop.
(BI): Can you speak on your experiences as an Olympian?
(FM): It’s a tough system. As a boxer, it is a 3-round, 4 or 5 days a week competition. Weigh in every morning if you keep winning. Normally by the 4th or 5th day of an event, you are exhausted physically and mentally. Olympic is pretty much the same. So anyone who competes in the Olympics is his own hero. He has to overcome a lot to be there.
(BI): From your experiences, what is the best thing about being a fighter?
(FM): I always fight for my country. My robes and trunks are the same color with my national flag. I got support from millions of people back in China. So far this gives me most encouragement.
(BI): What are some of the cons to being a fighter; something that may not necessarily be discussed often enough?
(FM): Boxing is more than two guys fighting each other. It’s a business and there has to be a ton of business matters to be negotiated and finally achieved. But as a boxer myself, I prefer to just focus on my part, which is training and fighting.
(BI): There are rumors of a tournament for the World Boxing Super Series for your division of light heavyweight. Is that something you would be interested in and do you feel like you would have an advantage provided your extensive amateur experience?
(FM): I have been following WBSS for a long period of time. It’s a very high level of competition and the fighters are top of their division. It will be interesting if they add light heavyweight to their tournament. I’m currently under promotional agreement and I will leave this to my promoter. For me, training is the important part.
(BI): Considering your large frame, is the plan to campaign at light heavyweight for your entire professional career? Have you considered moving to cruiserweight or even to heavyweight?
(FM): It would be light heavyweight. It’s the perfect weight for me right now. I have been fighting in 81kg (approximately 178.574 lbs.) in amateur since the early stages. It hasn’t changed much in 15 years.
(BI): Do you have a five year plan in boxing, or a list of specific goals you want to accomplish before hanging up the gloves?
(FM): I’m 31 years old and I feel like I can be performing at my peak for at least another 5 years. I never look past anybody but for me, the most important thing right now is to get Beterbiev. I will see what happens after that.
(BI): Do you have a message for your fans and fans of boxing?
(FM): I want to thank my fans out there who support me. I hope my fights entertain you and are enjoyable to watch. I come from China, but I also feel home when American fans come to me and call my name. I really thank you guys for this. I will do what I do best and keep offering my fans great fights.
(BI): Thanks for your time Fanlong, it’s an honor to speak with you and I wish you the best moving forward!
(FM): Thank you for having me. Looking forward to talking to you again soon.
For more information, follow “Cold Blood” at Roc Nation Sports.