My greatest moment – China’s Zou Shiming lifts world title in Las Vegas after classy win over Prasitsak
Two-time Olympic gold medallist defeats Prasitsak Phaprom for the vacant WBO flyweight title with a classy exhibition on the undercard of the Pacquiao-Vargas bout
When it was all over, Zou Shiming thumped his chest and hugged his team. After a three-year wait, some setbacks and a lot of heartache, China’s poster boy of boxing finally achieved his dream of becoming a professional world champion.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist and three-time world amateur champion, easily outboxed, out-manoeuvred and outsmarted Thailand’s Prasitsak Phaprom to lift the vacant WBO flyweight title at Thomas & Mack Centre on Sunday morning (HK time). This was Zou’s greatest night and one of China’s proudest moments as the 35-year-old Guizhou native landed only the second world professional title for the mainland.
It was Zou’s 10th professional fight since turning pro in January 2013. The man they call the “Fists of Gold” won every round of the 12-round title fight. Judges had it 120-107 and 119-108 in his favour.
“This has been my dream. I have finally achieved it,” said Zou after his lop-sided, unanimous victory over the Thai whose record dropped to 39-2-22, 24 KOs.
“I didn’t really feel pressure. I felt calm and relaxed throughout the bout,” said Zou, who was seen smiling as he returned to his stool after each round.
“My heart was at ease. My opponent had actually improved from last time. But I knew I really had to grab this opportunity.”
Zou, meanwhile, improved to 9-1, 2 KOs but more importantly it has lifted his career to a new high and boosted his chances of having more lucrative fights in Macau, where he first started his professional career in 2013.
Watch: Highlights of Zou Shiming v Prasitsak Phaprom fight
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said recently in Hong Kong that Zou would be fighting in Macau again – he last fought there when losing his first world title fight against Amnat Ruenroeng in March 2013 – if he won in Las Vegas. His latest win will create a new wave of interest in the sport for China.
But back in Las Vegas, Zou was celebrating in his second bout in the United States.
With trainer Freddie Roach in his corner, Zou was determined to finally land the one title that has eluded him. He had to pick up the pieces after losing to Amnat in his first world title fight in 2013 but he made no mistake this time against Prasitsak, who is also known as Kwanpichit Onesongchaigym, whom he was fighting for the second time.
The pair fought two years ago in Macau with Zou winning by unanimous decision but Zou won more comprehensively in the rematch this time.
Beginning cautiously, Zou picked up the pace and floored his Thai opponent late in the second round, an uppercut that sent the Thai to the canvas for a standing eight-count.
Prasitsak said he was a different fighter since his last loss to Zou but despite riding a two-year winning streak, winning all his 12 bouts by KOs, it was a poor and disjointed performance by the 35-year-old Thai, who was nursing a badly cut left eye at the end of the bout.
Zou landed 347 punches while the Thai landed just 107. That was the telling factor.
Zou easily picked off the Thai, slipping in and out of punches and showing speed. There was even some time for a bit of showboating.
“I’m going to win for Muhammad Ali,” Zou told reporters last summer. “Ali is my idol, and I’m going to win not only for China but for Ali, my hero,” said the Chinese of the “The Greatest” who died in June.
The only time Zou appeared to be in trouble was when he slipped in the ninth round but it was more of an act of carelessness as he slipped under Prasitsak’s weight rather than the weight of the Thai’s punches.
“It was a fight I had to win but I had to make it more exciting,” said Zou at the post-fight press conference. “I won Olympic gold medals and now I have the pro title. I can promote boxing better in China now.”
When Zou knew he had the fight in the bag, he entertained the pro-Chinese crowd, sticking his neck out and taunting the Thai to hit him. But the Thai could only chase while throwing wild punches.
In the final round, Prasitsak was warned for a low blow but Zou rode it out and raised his arms in triumph at the final bell.