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Fighting Talk: Zou “absolutely expecting” to win world title in Macau

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China’s Olympic hero ZOU SHIMING is confident of winning his first world title as a pro when he challenges Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng for the IBF flyweight belt at The Venetian Macao on March 7, with the two undefeated fighters facing off for a fourth time.

 

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February 9, 2015: Zou Shiming will bid to become China’s second boxing world champion on March 7 when he challenges former amateur rival Amnat Ruenroeng for the IBF flyweight belt at The Venetian Macao.

 

In ‘The Showdown at Sands’, Zou will look to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Xiong Chaozhong, who won the WBC minimumweight title in Kunming in November 2012 and retained it twice the following year. But in contrast to Xiong, who lifted the belt in his 25th pro bout, the 33-year-old Zou is bidding to win a world title in only the seventh fight of his belated pro career.

 

Starring in multi-bout cards promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank, Zou has fought and won all six of his pro fights at The Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena since April 2013, building on a stunning amateur career that included Olympic golds (light flyweight) at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, World Championships titles in 2005, 2007 and 2011, two Asian Games golds – and three fiercely contested fights against Amnat.

 

Zou Shiming will challenge Amnat Ruenroeng for the IBF flyweight belt at The Venetian Macao on March 7.

Zou Shiming will challenge Amnat Ruenroeng for the IBF flyweight belt at The Venetian Macao on March 7.

The Chinese star had the edge in their first three fights, with home advantage proving decisive each time. In their first clash at the 2007 King’s Cup in Thailand, the little-known Amnat emerged victorious after being called up as a late substitute by the Thailand amateur team, having developed as a boxer while in prison.

 

Zou, who hails from Guizhou province, won the next two clashes in China, firstly on his way to winning his first Olympic gold at Beijing 2008 and two years later in the semi-finals of Guangzhou 2010, where Zou successfully defended his Asiad title. Amnat disputed both losses.

 

Zou Shiming celebrates gold at Beijing 2008, four years after winning China’s first Olympic boxing medal in Athens. Photo: AFP.

Zou Shiming celebrates gold in Beijing, four years after winning China’s first Olympic boxing medal in Athens. Photo: AFP.

Amnat, who turned 35 last December, has since had a head start on Zou in the pro game, winning all 14 of his paid fights from May 2012.

 

In January last year, he captured the vacant IBF flyweight title in Thailand with a unanimous decision over Rocky Fuentes, then defended the title twice with split decisions, in May against Kazuto Ioka in Japan – Amnat’s first fight outside of Thailand – and in September against McWilliams Arroyo in Thailand.

 

As Zou and Amnat gear up for their first showdown as pros, the former has been back training at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles since early January and is scheduled to head to Macau on February 28, a week before he attempts to follow Xiong into the history books.

 

Zou's popularity has earned him a role as an ambassador for Beats by Dr Dre headphones.

Zou’s popularity has even earned him a role as an ambassador for Beats by Dr Dre headphones.

What were your impressions of Amnat the first time you fought him in 2007?

He was tough and skilful. He fought aggressively and was never afraid to attack. He gave 100 per cent effort to fight for the victory.

 

In the next two fights, how did both you and him change as fighters?

He was as strong as the first time we fought, but I became more comfortable with my fighting strategy and I had also gained more experience of fighting Thai boxers. All three fights were fantastic. We both knew the other wouldn’t give you an easy victory. You have to fight for it with your skill and courage.

 

Do you think Amnat has an advantage because he has had more pro fights than you?

Amnat is as determined as me to win this fight. He is a tough fighter and the professional experience should give him a bit of an advantage. He knows how to fight during a championship and how to deal with fighting in a foreign country for a world title.

 

Zou always enjoys huge support at The Venetian Macao, where he has fought all of his pro bouts. Photo: Top Rank.

Zou always enjoys huge support at The Venetian Macao, where he has fought all of his pro bouts. Photo: Top Rank.

How much will it help that you will again be fighting at The Venetian Macao, where you always enjoy strong support?

I am more familiar with Cotai Arena than Amnat is and it’s one of my advantages, and as the fight is in Macau, China, maybe I can expect a bit more cheering than him. I’ve always enjoyed the cheering when I fought in Macau. The supporters give you a lot of confidence and courage.

 

How confident are you of victory against Amnat?

I am training very hard for the fight and am absolutely expecting my first world title, but he’s a strong opponent and determined. We are both eager for a victory, so it’s hard to predict the result. The only thing I’m sure of is that we’ll both spare no efforts for the fight, and it will be an exciting and stunning world championship.

 

If you win, you would be China’s second pro boxing world champion. Do you think about this and what this would mean to your country?

I have done everything I could do in my amateur career. After winning my second Olympic gold medal, it was time to set out for the professional arena. Turing pro in my 30s after two Olympic victories was a challenge no other Chinese had done before and I’m proud to take this step. And if I win the title, hopefully my story can inspire more young Chinese talents to practise boxing, start their pro careers and fight for their own dreams.

 

How well do you know Xiong Chaozhong, China’s first pro world champion?

We know each other. He did his best and became a strong boxer. I respect Xiong very much. He made a contribution to Chinese boxing in his own way.

 

Zou in training with Freddie Roach in July 2013. Photo: AFP.

Zou training with Freddie Roach in July 2013. Photo: AFP.

Some people say the main transition from amateur to pro boxing is the increased punching power. Do you think you have done this successfully in your two years as a pro?

My trainer Freddie Roach stressed the importance of power in professional boxing when I was accepted as his apprentice. However, he always encourages me to maintain my strengths including speed, flexibility and technique. He uses all kinds of methods to help me improve my power without losing my strong points.

 

Also, he revises all of my previous fights to analyse if anything could be done better. He tells me what professional boxing is like, making me always watch out for anything that could happen. I’m proud to say I don’t let Freddie down and I’m still making progress. I’m satisfied with the changes I’ve made, but I’m going to achieve more, to totally release all the power I have in store.

 

What are the other important differences between amateur and pro boxing?

Pro boxing is more intense and more competitive, and it has taken time to adapt to the new rules and new formats. However, it’s fantastic both inside and outside the rings. You’re cheered when you enter the ring, when you punch your opponent hard, when you knock him down. And if you want to remain to be a good pro boxer, you need a stronger body, better technique and a braver heart.

 

Finally, who’s your boxing hero?

My boxing hero is Muhammad Ali. I haven’t met him so far and I’m looking forward to seeing him in person.

 

For tickets, visit: https://www.cotaiticketing.com

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