Zou aims to put China on world map

Source:AFP-Global Times Published: 2015-2-6 5:03:01

Fanatical support back home ‘is no pressure’

Chinese boxer Zou Shiming drapes a Chinese national flag to celebrate after defeating Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym of Thailand during their World Boxing Organization flyweight boxing match in Macao on November 23, 2014. Photo: CFP

Double Olympic champion flyweight Zou Shiming has vowed to put China on the global boxing map by winning his first professional world title in Macao next month.

The 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist was a three-time world champion in a glorious amateur career, but he believes that if he beats the undefeated Thai Amnat Ruenroeng in March he would finally bring Chinese boxing to the world's attention.

"I swore to fulfill my dreams to ­become a professional fighter, to achieve world titles and to bring China into the worldwide boxing ­family," Zou told AFP in an interview in Los Angeles.

Zou is currently training for the fight at legendary trainer Freddie Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club in the US city.

The boxer denied that fanatical support in his homeland - where up to 300 million are expected to watch the clash for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt - was heaping pressure on him.

"The pressure doesn't come from my home country, but comes from myself and that made me enter the pro ring in my thirties," said the 33-year-old who is from Southwest ­China's Guizhou Province.

Veteran promoter Bob Arum has dubbed Zou "the poster boy" for the rise of Chinese professional boxing, where it was banned under Mao Zedong for being too Western and too violent.

"Zou is the engine behind all of this activity in China," said Arum. "He's the poster boy."

Superstar status

Zou is quickly assuming superstar status following a cameo appearance in the latest Transformers movie and after starring in advertisements for Beats headphones with NBA icon LeBron James and tennis legend Serena Williams.

His soaring popularity back home will hit the stratosphere should he win at the Venetian Macao casino in the southern Chinese gambling hub on March 7.

In just two years since Zou's first professional fight at the Venetian's Cotai Arena, the venue has become the home of boxing in Asia.

It has hosted all of Zou's six professional fights and two world title cards featuring the Filipino eight-weight world champion Manny Pacquiao, regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter of the past 15 years.

Zou's last outing in November - second on the bill to Pacquiao's demolition of Chris Algieri - saw him go 12 rounds for the first time and batter another experienced Thai, Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym, in a runaway points victory.

Zou (6-0, 1 KO) expects a much tougher battle against Amnat (14-0, 5 KOs), who is making his third ­defense of the IBF flyweight title.

The pair fought three times in their amateur careers with Zou ­winning the last two encounters.

"He is as determined as me to win this fight," said softly spoken Zou. "He is a tough fighter, and the ­professional experience should give him a bit of an advantage.

"I have fought Amnat three times and I am familiar with his fighting style. However he turned professional years earlier than me. This should bring me new challenges."

Fearless fighter

The one downside of Zou's victory over Kwanpichit was a nasty gash over his left eye, which has delayed the world title fight by a month to give him time to heal.

"The eye problem has been fixed," said Zou.  "As a boxer, you will always taste blood. Cuts and injuries are common. If they scare you, you will never become a good fighter."

Zou says his ultimate dream is to make it big in the US and fight in Las Vegas for a world title.

"Las Vegas is always the big stage that all professional boxers dream of," he said.

"At the moment I only focus on March 7. I am not going to hang up my gloves no matter what the result is. I will try hard to make different kinds of breakthroughs. Let's say fighting in Las Vegas is one of them."

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