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‘The Dragon’ invades the Dome

Students come to college to learn and prepare themselves for their future.

China “The Dragon” Smith is coming to USF to knock out Saul Montana.

Headlining a seven-fight card at the Sun Dome Friday, Smith will defend his National Boxing Association heavyweight title against Montana.

Boasting a 23-0 record with 22 knockouts, the 23-year-old Smith has started to carve a niche in the professional ranks. Still, none of the three major federations have taken notice of The Dragon just yet.

“As long as you keep getting the victories, all that stuff will come,” Smith said. “I don’t get into the rankings because the rankings are all about politics and all those other things. I’m just a fighter working hard and training hard to fight whoever, whenever.”

Boxing has always been in Smith’s blood. At the age of 3, Smith would follow around his father, China Smith, who was an amateur boxer. From there, Smith put his athletic talents on display for Sarasota Riverview’s football team. As a senior, the team got to the Florida state championship, but they failed to win the title. Smith then decided that he wanted to bear the whole burden and gave up on team sports, even though universities such as Miami and Florida State tried to entice him to continue with football.

“We have a tendency to depend on other people playing a team sport,” he said. “They sometimes let you down. Boxing is an individual sport … I’m in control of my own fate.”

As important as training with his dad is Smith’s relationship with his trainer Henry Grooms. Smith cited Grooms as a big inspiration in his career.

“I have been blessed to have two fathers now,” Smith said. “(Mr. Grooms) and my dad, they get along like brothers.”While Smith may view Grooms like his father, Grooms compared their relationship to a fine marriage.

“If you were going to select a wife, you would select one that has a great deal of everything that you have desires of and admiration (for) – she has to be honest, intelligent, have accountability,” Grooms said. “That’s what one would choose. It’s no different in the sporting business … with China Smith, I get honesty and integrity. I get a hard-working, disciplined young man. I get someone who cares, who’s humane with people, who knows how to behave around people, with people, who cares for children. All of those ingredients are the things that someone wants to surround himself with, be a part of.”

Blessed with such talents, it wouldn’t be surprising to find Smith as an over-the-top character. But The Dragon remains a quiet yet confident competitor who lets his gloves do most of the talking.

“Don’t mistake kindness for weakness,” Smith said. “I walk softly but carry a very big stick. And when I get into the ring, that’s when it’s time to show and to express what it’s all about – what I’m about. That’s when the Dragon gets a chance to really explode and let off some fire and steam.”