Hall-of-Famer Freddie Roach has tipped Zou Shiming to become world flyweight champion within a year, calling his Chinese protégé a "phenomenal" talent.
The legendary American trainer, whose most famous student is Philippines superstar Manny Pacquiao, said two-time Olympic gold medallist Zou would be "fast-tracked" to contend for the world title because of his extraordinary ability.
Zou, who is a three-time world amateur champion, will make his professional debut at the Cotai Arena in the Macau Venetian tomorrow night. The 31-year-old takes on underdog Eleazar Valenzuela of Mexico (2-1-2) in a four-round contest that is the main event of the extravaganza dubbed "Fists of Gold".
"I predict he will be world champion in one year," said Roach of China's most famous boxer. "It's been a great ride for Shiming during the past two months. He spent 10 days in Las Vegas and I saw a lot of talent from him and then we moved to LA, where he sparred with Brian Viloria [current WBO/WBA world flyweight champion].
"Zou is a very quick learner. The harder I push him, the harder he works. He's a great student.
"We got him ready for this fight. We need a little more ring experience before we go into a title fight. In the gym we went up to nine rounds and Shiming handled it with no problem. But the gym is a gym and a fight is a fight and they are two different places. If he can carry it over into the fight, he will be in good shape," Roach said.
"Shiming may be 31 years old, but boxing is measured not by your age but by how many wars you have been in. Shiming is one of those guys who doesn't get hit very much. He's a very fresh 31."
Top Rank CEO and founder Bob Arum is also confident Zou will light up the flyweight division by taking the world title in 2014.
Coincidentally, Filipino-American Viloria will be out to retain his world flyweight title at the Cotai Arena against Juan Francisco Estrada, of Mexico, in one of night's three major bouts. The other title fight of the night is between two-time WBO junior lightweight champion Roman "Rocky" Martinez, of Puerto Rico, and undefeated number one contender Diego Magdaleno, of the US.
Arum praised Zou's amateur record and was convinced his new stable star will one day reach the top of his profession.
"At first, we didn't know much about Shiming and what his philosophies were and we didn't know whether he would adjust to the professional ranks from the amateur ranks. But what we have seen during the past few weeks far exceeded our expectations. He's a phenomenal fighter," said the 81-year-old Arum.
"Shiming is a people's person and a gentlemen and a true sportsman. It's a great match-making between Freddie [Roach] and Shiming. It's been a great marriage. So far it has been spectacular," said Arum.
Zouhas not given himself a timeframe in which to win the world title, but said he would work hard to "achieve his dreams" of becoming champion.
"It's definitely my goal to become world champion. It's up to my coach Freddie and Bob Arum to decide what's best for me. On Saturday, it's the first step for me towards realising my dream," said Zou.
The Beijing and London Olympic gold medallist mingled with the other fighters on the Fists of Gold card yesterday and met former two-time world heavyweight champion George Foreman, who will be commentating for the HBO network.
"To be in the company of these great fighters such as George Foreman is extremely exciting for me. I'm getting goose pimples just seeing these stars," said Zou.
Organisers said there were still tickets available.