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Indonesia's boxing sensation
Nidhi Dutt reports.

World featherweight champion boxer Chris John is described as one of the best athletes international boxing has ever seen, but outside of Indonesia he is virtually unknown.
Transcript
CATHERINE MCGRATH, PRESENTER: He's often described as one of the best athletes international boxing has ever seen, with a technique that's hard to rival and a rags to riches story symbolic of his country's aspirations.

But outside Indonesia, world featherweight champion Chris John is virtually unknown.

Not that international obscurity fazes this quiet man, better known in the ring as "The Dragon".

Nidhi Dutt caught up with Chris John in Jakarta days out from his latest, and much anticipated, world title defence.

CRAIG CHRISTIAN, TRAINER: I believe his weakness, we're not going to stop him punching him in the head. We could stop him from the body.

NIDHI DUTT, REPORTER: Layer by layer, protective coats of tape envelope a waiting pair of hands. Trainer Craig Christian preps his star boxer for battle.

But Chris John, the man to whom these fighting fists belong, needs little reminder of why he's the undefeated World Featherweight Champion, and what it takes to get to and stay at the top of boxing's big league.

CHRIS JOHN, BOXER (translation): Hard work, dedication and discipline, but I keep learning and trying to be better and better.

(Footage of Chris John training outdoors plays)

NIDHI DUTT: This is Chris John's last session in the ring before he sets out to defend his world title yet again. Last year the World Boxing Association named him fighter of the decade. He has an enviable undefeated record and a fan base of millions across this country.

More than two decades after his first time in the ring, this 33 year old is zeroing in on some of world boxing's longstanding records. This weekend John will take on Japan's Satoshi Hosono in Jakarta and defend his featherweight title for the 18th time.

If he wins, John will equal American heavy weight legend Rocky Marciano's record of 49 undefeated fights; a record set more than 50 years ago.

But for this man it is not just about making history. It is about living up to the expectations of 240 million people, across the world's largest archipelago.

CHRIS JOHN (translation): I am an example that Indonesia has talent and that we can nurture talent through hard work and achieve good results.

NIDHI DUTT: Outside the ring John is just a regular guy, a private family man with few airs and graces. His fame is yet to dawn on his own daughters.

(Footage of Chris John speaking to his daughters via computer)

But for millions of Indonesians, young and old, face time with one of the country's only global superstars is a daunting experience and one even worth dressing up for.

MALE FAN 1 (translation): I'm a big fan of Chris John. Chris John is giving Indonesia a good name. He's one of the best boxers.

NIDHI DUTT: Despite his impassioned fan following at home, Chris John doesn't enjoy the kind of attention or air time Asia's other boxing sensation, Filipino Manny Pacquiao, has long been used to.

Sports commentator, Donny Winardi, says there's one big reason why the world doesn't know 'The Dragon' as well as Pacman.

DONNY WINARDI, BALA SPORTS NEWSPAPER (translation): The main problem is the lack of Indonesian spectators overseas in comparison to Manny Pacquiao. Those who watch Manny Pacquiao are not white people, or black or Mexican, they're Filipinos, that's for sure.

(Footage of Las Vegas boxing fight plays)

NIDHI DUTT: The United States and Las Vegas in particular are the bastions of boxing's big bouts, big money and big titles. The Indonesian champion has fought twice in America with one draw and one win, but he hasn't returned in recent years.

John's trainer insists this is hardly a snub of the sport's most hallowed rings.

(Footage of Chris John fighting in Los Vegas plays)

COMMENTATOR: Suarez, he can't nail him. He can't floor him.

(Footage ends)

CRAIG CHRISTIAN: A lot of people have put their hands up and said, 'We'll fight Chris John. Let's fight', you know. But he won't come over here and fight. No one as even offered us any money to go over and fight over in America since Rocky Suarez.

NIDHI DUTT: Despite being one of the world's most populous countries Indonesia only has a handful of globally recognised sports stars. It is a poorly funded career path here and life after game day is seldom bestowed with wealth and comfort.

The country's youth and sports minister concedes he needs double or triple the amount of funding he has to help nurture more talent like Chris John.

ROY SURYO, INDONESIAN MINISTER OF YOUTH AND SPORTS AFFAIRS (translation): Nothing can be achieved instantly, but when it comes to sport, we should start at an early age. We need a person's formal education and athletic ability to develop simultaneously. Formal education is very important for an athlete and if it can go hand in hand with sport, that will be very good.

NIDHI DUTT: Chris John's rise from the nondescript training rings in Semarang in North Java to the big time of global boxing is no small feat. And he may yet prove, in a sport synonymous with high stakes and big money, there's still merit in pursuing a path of less pomp and more punch.
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