Meet Rex Tso, Hong Kong's ring king

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 9:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 2:38pm

Rex Tso Sing-yu may be one of a kind, but like most of us his day starts early and he puts in long hours.

However, his daily grind couldn't be further from the nine-to-five many of us experience - Tso is Hong Kong's only professional boxer and this weekend he steps into the ring for one of the biggest fights of his burgeoning career.

The country he calls home hosts its first ever big-time professional fight this weekend, when Filipino ring phenomenon Manny Pacquiao takes on Mexican-American Brandon Rios for the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title in Macau. Tso, 26, is a starring act on an undercard bristling with up-and-coming Chinese and Asian talent.

Getting to this point has been no cakewalk for the boy from Tuen Mun, whose day starts at 5am with a breakfast of oatmeal and more boiled eggs than any normal human should have to stomach. That's followed by a 90-minute run and a short nap, before he heads to the gym for a four-hour workout.

All this comes as second nature to the young featherweight. Working-class Tso was brought up with the fight game, as his dad was a famous amateur boxer in the 1970s and '80s - the man who has earned the ring moniker "The Wonder Kid" admits the hard days of training can be monotonous.

But the endless workouts are paying dividends; since turning professional two years ago, southpaw (or left-hander) Tso has racked up a record 10 wins - nine by knockout - and zero losses. He has big dreams to become the city's first professional world boxing champion.

"I feel proud about bringing boxing to the people of Hong Kong," Tso told the South China Morning Post in a break from training. "Just two years ago, I would've never imagined myself being where I am now … I had no clue where I would end up."

But like many professional sportspeople in Hong Kong, Tso is travelling a tough and sometimes lonely road to stardom.

"I think part of it is the lack of government support in pushing young people to pursue sport as a career. Parents also tend to discourage the children from becoming professional athletes, let alone in a sport like boxing."

Watch: Hong Kong's first ever professional boxer, the undefeated Rex Tso

Tso started young, learning the ropes at the South China Athletic Association before having his first amateur fight aged 16: "I was hesitant before turning pro as I had doubts about whether it was the best move for me … my family was also concerned about whether I could make a living. After all, that is what everybody in Hong Kong is concerned about."

But grit and determination are everything he says, urging young people with a dream to follow it through. "If young people want to pursue their dream, I would advise them to just do it and do it while young. I knew I could bear the consequences of failure so I thought: why not try while I'm young? I wasn't going to wait until my body grew old or until I made enough money."

Tso aims to "double" the number of people taking part in boxing in Hong Kong not if, but "once" he wins a world title.

He also wants more investment in the sport, and feels this weekend's extravaganza in Macau will do big things for boxing in the city. "Hong Kong doesn't have enough people, gyms or organisations to promote boxing. Western boxing is different from muay Thai [Thai boxing] in Hong Kong, which is more popular and has a large organisation overlooking and promoting it."

Clearly he is doing his bit to help. Already he has clinched the WBO Asia title for the super flyweight division, his biggest achievement to date, and is eyeing an 11th win when he takes on Thai fighter Susu Sithjadeang at the Clash in Cotai in Macau on Sunday, which also sees China's Zou Shiming take on Mexico's Juan Toscano.

After a month of training with Pacquiao's camp in the Philippines, Tso is confident his polished footwork, power and new-and-improved left-straight, will nab him another win.

"I feel good. The intensity of training has decreased as the fight nears," said Tso. "I still have about seven pounds to cut to make the target [weight limit] of 118lb [53.5kg]."

With his trademark beam, Tso cites another big challenge: "Making weight is also very hard in Hong Kong because there's so much good food."