Unbeaten Hong Kong super flyweight Rex Tso Sing-yu couldn't have asked for a better sparring partner as he prepares for next week's Fists of Gold II in Macau - two-time Olympic gold medallist Zou Shiming.
For the past two days, the Hong Kong "Wonderkid" has been training with the three-time world amateur champion, and together the pair have sweated it out in Tso's DEF gym in Sheung Wan.
"To be honest, I was overawed by the whole experience on the very first day of training ... me and Zou Shiming in the ring together was like a dream for me because I regard Zou as my idol. I have followed his career since he won his first Olympic gold and to be training together, sparring together ... it's really an experience for me," said 25-year-old Tso, who is out to extend his unbeaten record (9-0-0) against Thailand's Rusalee Samor at the Venetian Cotai Arena on July 27.
Tso, who recently returned from a three-week training stint in the Philippines, will need to be on his toes when he comes up against 29-year-old Samor (20-4-2, 9 KOs), in a six-round, non-title fight on the undercard for Fists of Gold II. Zou battles Mexican Jose Ortega over six rounds in the main event.
It will be the first time Tso will be showing off his skills at the Cotai Arena, where a sell-out 15,000 crowd is expected, while Zou will be fighting in the arena for a second time after winning a unanimous decision against Mexican fighter Eleazar Valenzuela in April.
"I could feel Zou's power in the ring. He has more experience than me and definitely has more power than me, but I thought I did pretty good considering," said Tso, ranked 17th on the World Boxing Council list. "Zou's footwork is also outstanding. It was an indeed an honour to be training with someone of Zou's calibre."
Zou also praised Tso for giving him the chance to shape up for his Macau fight, saying he needed someone talented to push him in his workouts.
"Rex is a good fighter and I am glad he has given me the opportunity to get properly prepared for my bout. On some days, he matched me in speed and strength. He is helping me a lot," said 32-year-old flyweight Zou, gold medallist in Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
Tso's trainer and manager, Jay Lau Chuen, said Tso was "a bit overawed" by the experience of training with his idol. "Rex has improved since the first day of training and I thought Rex matched Zou in certain areas. On the first day of training, Zou landed a big right and Rex was almost knocked down.
"Zou has definitely improved in leaps and bounds since I last saw him in action in Macau [in April]. He is even more powerful than before and he hasn't lost his fighting style," said Lau.
Zou said he was looking forward to his second pro fight, but refused to be drawn into making any predictions.
"The most important thing for me right now is to focus on my training and do my best next week. If there's an opportunity for a knockout, I will go for it."