After winning two Olympic Games gold medals and three world titles as an amateur Zou Shiming turns professional on Saturday night. Victory in his four-round debut fight against Eleazar Valenzuela from Mexico should be a formality but anything but a resounding victory, preferably by knockout, would be a shock result.
The Chinese flyweight embarks on what he and his US promoters hope will be a fast track to a world title. His first professional bout is part of the "Fists of Gold" tournament in the 15 000-seat Cotai Arena in Macau. Zou is already 31 years old and only 1.65 metres tall but he intends to be a world champion soon.
"It's always been a dream of mine to become a professional boxer. Now that I have this opportunity, I want to see if I can become a world champion. That is the goal,” he says.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, has predicted big things for him but he and Zou know there is little time to reach the world-title stage.
"He picks things up very quickly and I think he'll be champion in a short time. I told Bob Arum that within a year this guy will be the world champion," Roach has said.
"I know that's a fast track, but with his amateur experience we can go that way."
Zou has signed with Arum's Las Vegas-based Top Rank promotions. Arum is eyeing the untapped China market and sees its 1.3 billion population as a new frontier.
The event is also a chance for the casino enclave of Macau, close to Hong Kong in southern China, to put itself on the map as a venue for top-class boxing.
Philippine icon Manny Pacquiao, who has a huge Asian following, may fight there later this year.
On the same bill on Saturday night, Brian Viloria will defend his WBO and WBA flyweight titles against tough Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada. Viloria may one day fight Zou. Tags: Freddie Roach , Zou Shiming