SHEX Interviews: Michele Aboro

SHEX Interviews: Michele Aboro

By Sonia Su

Just three years after Michele Aboro began competing in kickboxing in her hometown of London at the age of 16, she won her first world title. She went on to win five world titles for kickboxing, two world titles for undefeated boxing and two titles for K1 Champion. After retiring from boxing without losing a single match, Michele now helps train both pros and amateurs as head coach at Aboro Academy in Shanghai.

We caught up with the former world champion to discuss her efforts to spread the skills and life lessons gained from boxing to both expats and locals, and her goals of training underprivileged Chinese youths.

SHEX: How did you end up in Shanghai?

Michele: I was visiting my friend Yilan, a fine art photographer who was over here writing a book. I came here looking for somewhere to train, and I found that there was nowhere really to train, so I said to her, ‘We should come back here and open a gym.’ Everybody thought it was crazy. Moved back to Holland for a year, and within a year, moved back to Shanghai, and in four months, we opened Golden Gloves.

I wish I could speak Chinese. Once my Chinese gets up to a [sufficient] level, I want to start exploring and I want to open up different gyms in China. Opening up in Shanghai, this was actually a place where it was easier for me to do it. My Chinese is not great. I want to be able to talk to [people I train] on some level to explain what I’m doing. To always have an interpreter there, you lose things in translation. The majority of Chinese guys here, their English is on a higher level than in other places around China, so I can actually communicate and lay down my roots here and have the mothership here. Shanghainese people are open-minded people, so this makes it easier for us.

SHEX: Tell us more about the team you put together.

Michele: I invited Kosta over from Siberia. He’s actually a Russian champion. Tao Tao went through the university system. China has these sports universities where parents drop off their kids when they’re very young because they have this idea that these kids can actually become olympic champions. If they’re lucky, maybe one percent will be this—the rest of them are forgotten.

This is what we really want to do—the ones that are forgotten, we want them to come here. We want to train them and get them re-educated as personal trainers and then put them into a profession that they do and have been doing for most of their lives, instead of these kids going to work as waiters or in massage parlors and doing stuff they don’t even like to do. Tao Tao is one of the same. He was actually one of these universities. He wasn’t actually able to make ends meet in doing what he loved to do, which was boxing. So we gave him work and trained him up as a fighter and told him we would try to get him an education as a personal trainer with some of the recognized federations in personal training in boxing.