Zou Shiming's Fists of Gold are turning into fists of dynamite after he announced his arrival in the professional ranks with a flashy, unanimous victory last night.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist passed his first test on his way to perhaps becoming a world champion by defeating little-known Mexican fighter Eleazar Valenzuela on points on a spectacular night at the Venetian Cotai Arena.
A capacity crowd of 15,000 and millions more watching the action live on the mainland, witnessed Zou make the transition from world's greatest amateur flyweight to a possible professional title contender.
The 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games champion dominated the 395th-ranked Valenzuela but wasn't able to knock down the tough 18-year-old in the four-round, 112-pound contest.
Legendary coach Freddie Roach stood proudly by Zou, who said he was pleased to have started his professional career on a winning note. Zou also saw his bank account swell considerably. He earned a reported US$300,000 last night, a previously unheard of sum for a rookie professional. Valenzuela made US$15,000, according to ESPN and HBO.
"I'm glad I won and I have to thank everyone who was involved in my preparation. This is a memorable night for me. I must thank the audience," said Zou. "Training wasn't easy for this fight and I am still learning the fight game. This was my first pro fight and it was completely different from my amateur days. I was pressured by my opponent from the start. He's powerful."
The Mexican wasn't intimidated by Zou, who began confidently and continuously landed a series of jabs and right hooks, trying to knock out his opponent from the onset.
The pride of Zunyi in Guizhou province only turned professional three months ago after signing with the Top Rank organisation, but there was no denying last night where he could be headed with Hall of Fame trainer Roach confidently tipping him to snatch the WBO/WBA flyweight title within a year.
Meanwhile, Roman "Rocky" Martinez retained his WBO world super featherweight title after defeating the previously unbeaten Diego Magdaleno of the US by a split decision.
The champion dropped Magdaleno in the fourth round and although the American quickly got back on his feet and matched Martinez right up to the 12th and final round, the knockdown proved the difference as judges gave the evenly contested fight to the Puerto Rican on their score cards.
Magdaleno, 26, lost his first professional fight in 24 outings after he wasn't able assert his authority against the Puerto Rican, who displayed a solid defence and answered everything the Las Vegan threw at him.
Martinez, a former two-time WBO lightweight champion, was pleased with his latest victory, which raised his record to 27-1-2 with 16 KOs. "I came well prepared and everything went well," said 30-year-old. "I knew I had the upperhand coming into this fight because I have fought around the world, while Diego was fighting for the first time outside Las Vegas. He's in a foreign country."
Filipino-American Brian Viloria, 32, lost his unified titles against Mexican challenger Juan Francisco Estrada in a 12-round WBO/WBA world flyweight championship that went the distance. Judges gave the fight to Estrada, 22, on a split decision.
Earlier, Filipino southpaw Dodie Boy Penalosa scored one of the night's most impressive victories in a featherweight bout. The Cebu City-based Penalosa was dropped in the first round by Thai fighter Ngaotawan Sithsaithong, whose stunning left hook caught the Filipino for a standing eight count. But Penalosa fought back to win in the third round by a knockout.
It was a memorable night for the Penalosa family as younger brother David extended his record to six straight victories, defeating Cheroenchai Sithsaithong of Thailand in a second-round technical knockout.