Boxing: Pioneer Zou Shiming breaks down Asian barriers with his fists

China's first professional pugilist makes debut next weekend with huge fan base following him

Fight-game history will be made in the Far East peninsula of Macau next Saturday night when the first Chinese boxer to turn professional makes his debut.

Zou Shiming, a double Olympic gold medallist and a national hero in his homeland, has been signed by the veteran American promoter Bob Arum, who believes the coup will create a whole new brawl game by opening up a lucrative market for the sport in China.

The 31-year-old flyweight with the fast hands and footwork that made him one of the stars of London 2012, is being trained in Los Angeles by Freddie Roach, whose stable is headed by the multi-weight world champion Manny Pacquiao and, until last year, also featured Britain's Amir Khan.

Zou will meet the Mexican Eleazar Valenzuela at the Venetian Hotel casino resort in Macau, the former Portuguese colony that is now, with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of China. According to Roach, Zou is "a good student and has great talent. He picks up things very quickly. Because of his amateur experience I believe he can be world champion in a very short time".

With the exception of the gloved glasnost which followed the break-up of the Soviet Union, it is the most significant breakthrough in boxing for a Communist country since the great Hungarian Laszlo Papp, the first boxer to win three successive Olympic titles, turned pro in 1957.

It is also a personal triumph for the 81-year-old Arum and his Top Rank organisation over his oldest adversary, Don King – his senior by five months – in the enduring battle of the octogenarian impresarios.

The King-Arum turf wars stretch back 40 years but Arum, once a tax lawyer in John F Kennedy's office, has finally beaten King to the punch. And last week King, who aspired to promote in China, lost his only remaining world champion when the light-heavyweight Tavoris Cloud was beaten by the 46-year-old Bernard Hopkins.

Arum says of Zou's acquisition: "This is the beginning of a new era in boxing. With a population of over one billion there is not only a tremendous fan base in China, where he is a national treasure, but potentially a hell of a lot of good fighters out there. It is a fantastic market to tap into, with China now very much open for business commercially.

"Zou may be 31 but has more than 10 years as a top amateur. I believe he will be like some of the Cuban fighters who, once they defected and turned professional, were able to fight for a world title in their first six, eight fights, because of the experience they gained as amateurs. The conventional wisdom used to be that small fighters from Asia could only reach a certain economic level. However, we have been able to destroy that myth through Pacquiao, who made as much as $30 million [£19.75m] for a fight. So the sky is the limit for this young man."

Zou follows the tennis star Li Na, hurdler Liu Xiang and basketball ace Yao Ming into a professional career. His has been a long march after China entered the boxing arena again at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Zou became the first Chinese to win an Olympic boxing medal, a bronze at Athens 2004, before his golds in Beijing and London. He also won three amateur world titles.

Born in Zunyi, the economic and commercial hub of the province of Guizhou, Zou almost didn't become a boxer because his parents were worried their son could get hurt in the ring. Zou practised the martial art of wushu as a 12-year-old before he was encouraged to take up boxing because of his extraordinary speed and agility.

He says Muhammad Ali was his idol. "As a boy I watched his fights on a black-and-white television. I later had a dream that one day I would be able to stand in the ring and sweat under the lights, creating honour, as he did. As long as I am chasing my dream, everything else becomes less important.

"But I have to remind myself that this is not the Olympic Games. This is real. This is professional boxing. Boxing in China is growing. I hope that through my efforts more people can understand that it is a sport for the brave and not a blood sport for barbarians."

Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Development Manager

Salary/Rate: £32,000/annum: M&E Global Resources Ltd: Description/Main Duties ...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor