Family fuels fire for Zou ahead of Macau match-up
Olympic medallist eager to repay faith of wife Ren Yingying as he prepares to take on Mexico's Jesus Ortega in his second pro fight
Behind every great man there's a great woman, or so the saying goes. This certainly holds true for two-time Olympic gold medallist Zou Shiming, whose marriage to Ren Yingying is much more than just holy matrimony.
Behind the scenes, Ren runs the show as Zou's financial adviser, translator and partner, and they are considered one of China's best-known celebrity couples.
If Zou, 32, wins his second professional fight in tonight's Fists of Gold II bill against Mexican Jesus Ortega, he will owe much of the success to his wife, who quit a promising career as a TV news anchor to help Zou fulfil his dreams of becoming a professional athlete. It has taken them to Los Angeles where they are based as Zou trains under the legendary Freddie Roach.
"My wife has been a great support, even when she is not here. Across the ocean in the United States, she has to take care of the family. What I have to do is come here and focus on the fight. To win the fight would be a great gift for my wife as a reward for her support," said Zou.
Ren, 31, who hails from Guizhou province just like Zou and won a competition to represent Zunyi city as an ambassador, is eight months pregnant in Los Angeles and could not make the trip to Macau.
Asked whether he has been checking up on his wife and his soon-to-be-born son on a daily basis, Zou replied: "Because of the time difference, we usually communicate by sending each other photos and leaving messages on WeChat.
"I feel I really owe my family, especially my wife for helping me with my career. She had to quit her career after I became a professional [in January]. She always put me in first place. She travels with me almost all the time," said Zou.
The flyweight said he felt "a bit guilty" Ren had to help him adjust to life in the United States, from buying groceries to helping with basic communication. Ren is fluent in English, while Zou only began learning this year.
"I feel very relaxed with her in America. Her English is much better than mine. I will hire an English teacher in future, but for now, Yingying is my teacher,"
Zou's fight against Ortega headlines tonight's bill as he again carries the hopes of a nation at the Venetian Cotai Arena.
The mainlander was full of praise for his Mexican opponent (3-1-0, 2 KOs), noting Mexico's reputation for producing great boxing champions. The Mexican camp was also respectful, joking that "Shiming" means rock star in Spanish.
"I come from Guizhou which is known for its spicy food. Ortega comes from Mexico, which is also known for its spicy food. Tomorrow, we will see who is spicier," said Zou.
Roach said it was all systems go for Zou, who is "turning out to be a great pro".
"We had a great training camp and everything has gone well for the fight," said Roach.
Zou's strength and conditioning coach, Gavin MacMillan, said the three-time world amateur champion had doubled his strength and endurance after five weeks of "torturous" training in Los Angeles.
"We used a 4-1/2 pound skipping [jump] rope. We did [at least] 10 sets of that during his training sessions. We used a 10-pound ball to try to increase power in his legs, and his rotary power," said MacMillan.
"We wanted to make sure he's physically prepared for any situation that might arise from the fight. The more you build your body the more confident you become. Our workouts are very intense. He's adapted very quickly and we are very proud of his work ethic.
"We had about five weeks to prepare so we tried to maximise every minute we could get. His overall conditioning and his power have increased tremendously, especially his footwork. That's where the power comes from," said the American trainer.
Ortega said he was confident of an upset victory in the six round flyweight bout. "I feel 100 per cent, physically and mentally," he said. "People have been saying I got no chance, but I will prove everybody wrong," he said.