It was a life-changing moment for Jian Jun Dong. Stepping foot onto the summit of Mount Tai in 2008, the 6-foot-11, 285-pound future heavyweight felt a mixture of elation and achievement atop one of China's most sacred landmarks.
"When I reached the peak and looked down, I liked the feeling and I wanted to have that feeling again when I'm at the top of the boxing world," he said, through a translator. "The view of looking at [the mountain] is enormous and I really like the meaning of it. That's why I picked the name."
Now billed as Taishan (with "shan" translating to "mountain"), the 26-year-old with the 84-inch reach -- appropriately nicknamed "The Great Wall" -- hopes to one day duplicate that feeling inside the ring.
Despite being plenty raw in the infancy stages of his career, the muscular Taishan (2-0, 2 KOs) is the kind of prospect you can't take your eyes off of. With a background in basketball, wrestling, kung fu and kickboxing, he brings an intriguing blend of power and athleticism that other giants of his ilk have lacked.
Taishan makes his return on the televised undercard of a Feb. 27 (FoxSports1) card against Roy McCrary (3-2, 3 KOs) in a four-round bout at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
While Taishan's ascension of the mountain that shares his name was a metamorphic point in his journey, a series of similar steps taken much closer to sea level proved just as altering to the career of his manager, George Gallegos.
On vacation in Los Angeles in December 2013, Taishan walked next door to the gym he was working out at to seek legal advice in Gallegos' Monterey Park law firm, where Chinese is spoken.
"I saw him when he first walked in and he was built like a superhero," Gallegos said. "He's strong and he's buff -- I had never seen anyone like him."
Their conversation quickly turned from legal matters to future aspirations, of which Taishan told Gallegos he wanted to become a boxer in the United States but didn't know how. In fact, he didn't even have gloves that would fit him.
A huge boxing fan and mixed martial arts referee in his free time, Gallegos couldn't believe what he had heard. How often does a muscular, athletic and potentially marketable giant just walk into anyone's office looking for help?
"So I said to let me make some calls and arrange for some things and give it a try," Gallegos said. "He said if it doesn't work, he'll go back [to China]. No problem."
So far, however, everything has worked just fine.
Gallegos hooked Taishan up with veteran trainer John Bray, who worked with him for six months ahead of his pro debut last July. Gallegos also got him on the radar of Golden Boy Promotions, which quickly signed him.
Taishan recorded a second-round TKO against Alex Rozman in his debut. Four months later in November, he scored a first-round knockout of Tommy Washington Jr. in his first fight with trainer Buddy McGirt at the helm.
"What impresses us most about Taishan is the incredible speed and agility he brings for someone of his size," Golden Boy founder and president Oscar De La Hoya told ESPN.com. "In the brief time Taishan has fought in the U.S., he has quickly acquired an impressive fan base, and we only expect that to grow as the public gets to see more of 'The Great Wall' in action."
Turning pro in the United States was important for Taishan, who called it his childhood dream and the reason he signed with Golden Boy over other suitors, including Top Rank, which has invested heavily in building two-time Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming in China.
It was Taishan's vision of himself from a marketing standpoint that made such a strong impression on Gallegos during their first meeting.
"He told me he hoped to be the Yao Ming of boxing," Gallegos said. "I think he can even be bigger."
Gallegos believes there's literally no limit to Taishan's marketing potential because of what separates him from similar giants of sports and entertainment lore: his athletic ability.
"Everybody likes a big guy and remembers throughout history guys like Andre the Giant," Gallegos said. "But a lot of times big guys are awkward. Taishan is fast and he's incredibly strong. He can almost do splits. He's just an incredible physical and athletic specimen."
Taishan first made a name for himself as a kickboxer in his January 2013 debut by knocking out long-faded American giant Bob Sapp in Tokyo. It was a moment he still cherishes.
"The kind of excitement was great," Taishan said. "To feel that I have achieved something so great in competition -- that really makes me feel very good."
But the transition from one combat sport to another has been a steady one. Taishan admits there have been difficulties along the way, but says he's gradually getting there.
He credits a large part of that to the influence of McGirt.
"Buddy has taught me to relax so that I can relive my biggest potential and my strength in order to help me achieve the highest potential that I have in me," Taishan said. "I also learned the boxing step and how to move. He showed me how to box by using my size to develop my speed. Buddy has a lot of experience."
Taishan credits the influence of Muhammad Ali's footwork and Mike Tyson's strength and speed in not only creating a passion for the sport in him as a youth, but helping him develop his own style. He also admires the combination of height and strength employed by current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
Whether Taishan will ever graduate from being an attraction to becoming a contender remains to be seen. As intriguing and powerful as he appears, he remains a 7-foot project who is still far away from being matched with a dangerous opponent.
"It will be a case-by-case basis, but I think he has to be pushed. He has to be challenged," Gallegos said. "I think all fighters do. We want to push him and want to him to learn, and that's only by experiencing some sort of difficulty or challenge."
Taishan says his 2015 goals are to improve and keep knocking out each opponent placed in front of him, which could go a long way in him creating more believers. Consider De La Hoya a card-carrying member of that group.
"We believe in Taishan, we believe in his ability," De La Hoya said. "He has talent, speed and tremendous power, as demonstrated in his last two fights. We know how to build champions. Therefore, we have no doubt in our mind that Taishan can become the heavyweight fighter that everyone dreams of."