China's Zou Shiming on course for world title, says Freddie Roach
Trainer insists two-time Olympic gold winner has what it takes to become an IBF champion
China's Zou Shiming played a bit part in the new Transformers movie, but Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach thinks his protégé is very close to playing his biggest role yet - champion of the world.
The American trainer is convinced the two-time Olympic champion can go all the way to the International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight title after the mainlander survived 10 rounds to outpoint remarkably tough Colombian Luis de la Rosa (23-4-1,13 KOs) in Saturday's Champions of Gold.
By winning his fifth straight pro fight (5-0-0, 1 KO), Roach believes Zou has a genuine shot at superstardom having already landed his first professional belt, the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) international flyweight title - one tier below a world title - by unanimous decision.
Roach had said the 33-year-old Guizhou native was being fast-tracked towards a title fight because of his advancing age and if he performed well in this bout, the Zou team would eye a world title fight in November. Zou's performance had his team nodding in approval.
"We did 10 hard rounds tonight. It wasn't perfect but we are going closer and closer all the time. I think we will be there pretty soon [a world title fight]. His [Zou] right hand was great and his power was a bit better. He was throwing more combinations. That's what I want to see," said Roach.
"The pace was good and he's been sitting down on his punches a bit more."
Zou is being lined up to possibly challenge IBF flyweight world champion Amnat Ruenroeng, of Thailand, on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao's fight against American Chris Algieri on November 23 in Macau.
Saturday's pulsating contest had the 8,000-strong crowd on its feet. De La Rosa suffered an accidental headbutt in the fifth round and was struggling to contain the bleeding.
"This is one small victory and I am sure there are many challenges along the road. The game plan was to win round by round. After going through 10 rounds, I am more confident of going to 12 rounds [title fight], so it's a big step for me," said Zou, who was wearing his trademark gold trunks and gold boots.
"I have been thinking of the world title ever since day one. I have faith in my team and my training staff. They have been very effective.
"I'm very confident I will be ready for a world title. I am very happy with my physical conditioning. There's been a big difference from amateur boxing to professional boxing. You have to put more power into your punching," he said.
Asked what Zou was trying to prove trading a flurry of punches and risking getting knocked out at the end of the fight, the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games champion, said: "I didn't want to leave the ring with any energy. I planned for 10 rounds, so I was going to deliver for 10 rounds."