China's Zou Shiming fighting fit for pro boxing debut in Macau
Two-time Olympic gold medallist hopes tonight will be the start to lucrative professional career if he defeats flyweight opponent Valenzuela
With an assuring nod of the head, Zou Shiming declared himself fit and ready to launch his professional career in tonight's Fists of Gold.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist begins a historic journey at the Venetian CotaiArena in a debut that could be the start of a highly lucrative and successful career that could one day match fellow Olympic great Liu Xiang, tennis star Li Na and now-retired basketball great Yao Ming.
Tonight's eight-bout extravaganza has caught the imagination of Macau. Zou is plastered on the electronic billboards along the Cotai strip, in what is being billed as the biggest boxing event in the city.
"This is it," said 31-year-old Zou, the gold medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games. "I've worked hard to get here. Now, I have to show what I can do.
"Training during the past two months has gone well. I even skipped celebrating Chinese New Year to make sure I'll be ready. I'm very excited to be here. Hopefully, I won't let down anybody," said China's most famous boxer, who weighed in at 112 pounds yesterday.
Zou's opponent in the four-round flyweight contest looks like a straight-forward affair for the Olympic champion - at least on paper. Mexico's Eleazar Valenzuela may only have a 2-1-2 ring record with one knockout, but the little-known Mexican will be out to claim Zou's scalp. A professional for just 11 months, the 395th-ranked Valenzuela thinks he can spoil the party.
"We know it's going to be a tough fight. He has a great amateur record," said Valenzuela. "I'm very pleased to have the support of my team. It's been a short professional career so far, but I am very excited to be in the main event. I hope to give you a great show."
His trainer, Alfredo Leon, said: "Eleazar has a very big heart. He will give everything in the fight. We're going to win."
Zou's coach, Hall-of-Famer Freddie Roach, was pleased with his protégé's preparations.
"From day one, Zou impressed me when he sparred with Brian [Viloria]. Brian had the upper hand on the first day, but Zou gradually matched Brian. I know Brian very well because I used to train him," said Roach, trainer of 31 world champions.
WBO/WBA world flyweight champion Viloria will coincidently defend his titles against Mexican Juan Francisco Estrada in tonight's penultimate fight over 12 rounds.
Ironically, Zou could meet Filipino-American Viloria for the title next year - if Viloria is still champion - and Roach said "sometimes you have to fight your friends". "I fought against my brother [as an amateur] when I was a boxer," said 53-year-old Roach, who amassed a professional record of 40-13-0, 15 KOs before he retired at the age of 27.
In tonight's other main feature, Mexican-American Diego Magdaleno, the number one contender, will challenge WBO junior lightweight champion Roman "Rocky" Martinez of Puerto Rico for the title over 12 rounds.
"I have my sights on the title. I'm going to get it. I'll put on a good show," said Magdaleno (23-0, 9 KOs).
Martinez was confident, too. "You're going to see a great fight. I come from Puerto Rico and if you think you can take away my title, keep dreaming," Martinez (26-1-2, 16 Kos) told Magdaleno.