By Jake Donovan
You can understand the sense of urgency that would come with placing a 31-year old debutant on the fast track to a world title. But Top Rank doesn’t focus on the age so much as the overwhelming talent possessed by Zou Shiming, the three-time Olympic medalist who makes his pro debut Saturday evening in Macau, China.
HBO2 will televise the bout live from Shiming’s homeland as he takes on Eleazor Valenzuela in a four-round bout that serves as the main event on a show that also boasts two major title fights.
“People ask me how you can have a main event that is only four rounds. I tell them, you can have it when the fighter is Zou Shiming,” explained Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum during Thursday’s press conference at The Venetian Macau, where Saturday’s show takes place.
Not very much is expected in the evening’s highly anticipated headliner. Valenzuela (2-1-2, 1KO) doesn’t represent on paper anything resembling a threat, which should make for a spectacular pro debut from China’s most successful amateur fighter ever. Shiming captured Olympic bronze in the 2004 Athens Games before going the distance in back-to-back Gold medal winning efforts in 2008 – at home in Beijing, China – and during last year’s London Games.
Within a year, it’s expected by his new handlers to have another major trinket on the trophy case.
“We’re going to put him on the fast track to a world championship,” revealed Freddie Roach, the Hall-of-Fame trainer tasked with guiding Shiming’s pro career. “Within one year he will be a world champion. He has great heart and desire and that’s what we have to work with.”
Top Rank deliberately paired up Shiming’s pro debut with a title fight featuring unified champion Brian Viloria in a defense against Juan Francisco Estrada.
The two are still a full weight division apart, not mention the gulf between the two in experience. Viloria was a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic squad – a full class ahead of Shiming’s initial run for China in 2004 – and has collected three belts over two reigns in more than a dozen years as a pro.
Still, the two are less than six months apart in age. Even with Shiming still days away from his first pro fight, the event’s handlers are already preparing the audience for its vision of the future.
“When we agreed to do this show, a question asked was, ‘Why a flyweight championship’ on the card. First of all, the guys contesting for the flyweight title are tremendous fighters,” suggested Arum, before getting to the main reason.
“There was another reason; because Zou Shiming is in this weight category,” Arum confesses. “As you look at him and you look at this title fight, these are the kind of fighters he will be facing when he moves up the ranks. This is a fight that will be of greater interest to the fans.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox