Feature: Former Croatian boxing champion joins in China's battle against coronavirus

Source: Xinhua| 2020-02-06 15:11:08|Editor: mingmei
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NANJING, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- Boxing star Goran Martinovic asked his relatives and friends in Croatia to purchase as many medical masks from pharmacies as possible. The masks are not intended for them, but for people thousands of miles away in China.

The former Croatian boxing champion has had 20,000 masks bought. His mother delivered them via air freight on Tuesday and Wednesday to Suzhou, eastern China's Jiangsu Province, where he currently lives.

The masks will be donated to the local charity for allocation.

"Suzhou is my second home, and I know we will fight through this together and win," he said.

As Chinese people are combating the outbreak of the new coronavirus epidemic, foreigners like Martinovic are offering a helping hand.

Martinovic, 33, learned boxing at the age of 3. He boxed on the national boxing team in Croatia and won multiple champions in Europe.

In 2015, he came to Suzhou to help his brother set up Suzhou Showdown white-collar boxing events.

Since then, he has organized charity boxing matches every year, through which 200,000 yuan (28,700 U.S. dollars) has been raised for girls with cleft lips and palates or leukemia. Some 10,000 people in the city, including foreigners, participated in the fundraising.

"I believe love is stronger than fists," he said.

In 2017, he opened a gym in Suzhou, coaching local white-collar workers boxing and wrestling. He also coaches impoverished kids free of charge.

Last April, he founded a foundation under his own name. Later last year, he won the Jiangsu provincial government friendship award, which is the highest honor the province can bestow on a foreigner.

Seeing the challenge the country has faced from the epidemic, Martinovic felt that he had to do something.

"I want to help in some way during this hard time. I am trying my best to order protective masks from Croatia and Serbia," he said, adding that he also plans to donate medical gloves.

The total confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection reached more than 28,000 on the Chinese mainland by Wednesday, with over 500 deaths reported. The virus outbreak has triggered a sharp increase in demand for masks.

Martinovic is not the only one showing international friendship in China's battle against the epidemic. The city of Satsumasendai in Japan, a sister city of Jiangsu's Changshu, has urgently delivered 30,000 masks.

According to the city government of Suzhou, more than 20 international sister cities and friendly exchange cities have donated medical materials or expressed their concerns and condolences through emails.

Further, a number of international enterprises have shown their love, including Samsung's Suzhou company, which donated 30 million yuan to aid China in combating the virus, the city government said.

Martinovic now spends most time at home, as his boxing gym has suspended operation for now.

He said after donating the masks, he would develop a home exercise program and share it online.

"Difficulties are temporary. After all this, everyone will pay more attention to physical health and love life more," he said.