By Unus Alladin
Unbeaten Hong Kong star Rex Tso Sing-yu's path to a world title has suddenly got a lot harder. He has been forced to change direction after Japanese super flyweight Daiki Kameda, the opponent he was supposed to meet in November, relinquished his International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt.
The 26-year-old southpaw (12-0-0, 8 KOs) had his mind set on challenging the 25-year-old Japanese star, one of three Kameda brothers who held world titles, at the CotaiArena in Macau, but that plan has been scuppered by Kameda's surprise move.
Tso will now have a potentially more difficult path towards achieving super stardom - he will set his sights on challenging reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) super flyweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai of Thailand (24-3-1, 22 KOs).
The 27-year-old Thai is considered a stronger opponent than Kameda (29-4-0, 18 KOs), although the Tso camp remain confident of an upset victory if the WBC, fight promoters Top Rank and Srisaket give the fight the go-ahead.
Reports suggest South Africa's Zolani Tete and Japan's Teiru Kinoshita, the number one and two ranked contenders, are likely to challenge for the vacated IBF title and Tso will play no part in it.
Tso was surprised by Kameda's IBF decision but remained committed to achieving his ultimate dream of winning a world title.
"I had studied Kameda for months and I am very disappointed that I won't fight him when I heard he gave up his title," said Tso, who is ranked 11th in the WBC rankings.
"I was eager to fight Kameda and I was thinking how to beat him. I was excited about the prospect of fighting him, and I was confident I would have beaten him," he said. "Now I have to take a different path but I still remain hopeful of becoming world champion one day."
Tso's trainer and manager, Jay Lau Chi-yuen, said he hoped to discuss the Hong Kong boxer's plans with WBC officials when Tso travelled to Bangkok on April 9 to pick up a major award.
"Tso has been named the WBC Asia Prospect of the Year for 2013. It's the same award that Srisaket picked up before he went on to win the WBC world title [last May]. This award is given to the fighter who has the potential of winning the world title," said Lau.
"We hope to discuss Tso's case with the WBC vice-president General Kovid Bhakdibhumi [of Thailand] and get things sorted out because we need a few months to promote the fight. We have worked with WBC from the beginning [before Top Rank] so we know them well."
Although pleased with Tso's progress, Lau said his protegé must still improve his "close combat" techniques. Tso is scheduled to have two lead-up fights in Macau on May 31 and in July, bouts he must win if he is to get a shot at the WBC title.
"Rex has to improve exchanging punches when he goes toe-to-toe and close to the ringside. He needs two more bouts in which to improve," said Lau.
Tso won his last fight impressively last month, defeating tough Japanese fighter Mako Matsuyama in an eighth-round knockout in Ring of Gold in Macau. By winning that bout, the "Wonder Kid" retained his WBC Asian Continental super flyweight title and snatched the vacant WBO Asia-Pacific junior bantamweight title.
Kameda actually lost his last fight against Liborio Solis of Venezuela in a split decision last December in Osaka in what would have been a unification bout. But Kameda retained his IBF title after Solis failed to make the 115-pound limit. Kameda kept his IBF title because he was fighting an overweight challenger. Solis was stripped of his WBA title.
It is understood Kameda, who is in Florida to train "from scratch", vacated his IBF belt because of difficulty making the weight limit.