Boxing legend Mike Tyson is keen to up his profile in China but is struggling to get to grips with the country’s sardonic sense of humour, judging by his online “weibo” debut.
The former world heavyweight champion opened a verified account on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo service on Monday, and asked in his second posting: “Who’s the best fighter in China?”
A popular response was “chengguan”, China’s widely despised enforcers of urban regulations, who have a reputation for brutality.
But the boxer, who retired in 2005 after a career noted for controversy inside and outside the ring including a rape conviction, replied: “Who is Chengguan? A tough man? I’ve never heard it.”
“Many guys talking about cheng guan as a great fighter? still not a clue about him…” he added later.
Tyson was following celebrities including Brad Pitt and David Beckham on to Sina Weibo, and had 75,000 followers by Tuesday afternoon.
Tyson’s posts quickly became among the most reposted on Sina, with tens of thousands of followers commenting on a potential fight.
“They will be the ones biting your ear,” said one poster Tuesday, referring to the 1997 WBA heavyweight championship bout which was stopped after Tyson bit Evander Holyfield.
“You fight others in the ring legally in US. Chengguan fight others in the street legally in China,” said another sarcastic comment.
Excessive zeal from chengguan enforcers regularly attracts media attention in China. Last month Deng Zhengjia, a 56-year-old watermelon stallholder, died in an encounter with them in the central province of Hunan.
Media reports citing his wife said an officer smashed Deng’s head with a metal measuring weight, although the county government denied the allegation.
Another poster told Tyson: “If you really want to challenge our chengguan, just sell your American hamburgers in our Chinese streets.”