'Wonder Kid' Rex Tso survives Thai rival's knockdowns to keep perfect record
Wonder Kid shows true heart with 13th consecutive victory on undercard of Featherweight Fury
Hong Kong's Rex Tso Sing-yu survived an almost botched weigh-in, two devastating knockdowns and two opponent changes, but still put up a lionhearted performance to win his 13th straight professional victory on the undercard of last night's Featherweight Fury.
The 26-year-old unbeaten southpaw was twice floored by Ratchasak Kokietgym (22-3-1) of Thailand in a shocking third round that almost ruined his unblemished record.
But the Wonder Kid roared back, outboxing and outduelling his experienced opponent to keep his perfect record intact, winning the super flyweight contest by a unanimous decision before an 8,000-strong crowd at the Cotai Arena.
On the same card, the "Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire Jnr beat South Africa's Simpiwe Vetyeka on a unanimous technical decision after the referee stopped the fight following the fifth round to become the new World Boxing Association (WBA) world featherweight champion.
Donaire was bleeding from the left eye after an accidental headbutt, but won on the judges' scorecards.
But the night also belonged to Tso. Responding to cries of "Rex! Rex! Rex!" from the crowd in the sold-out arena in the 10th and final round of an absorbing fight, Tso managed to hang on and secure his latest victory to the wild cheers of fans.
Judges scored it 96-92, 97-91 and 97-91 in Tso's favour as spectators learned that determination and boxing skills could still conquer obstacles.
"One more knockout, it would have been curtains for Rex," said Tso's relieved trainer Jay Lau Chi-yuen. "His opponent threw the right punches, right on the button, twice in the third round. It was a really good test for Rex. We are totally relieved that he won."
Tso was also relieved. But he always knew that if he kept up the tempo and used his skills, he could win despite the setback.
"I really didn't expect him [Kokietgym] to be that strong. I hit him many times and my fists were shaking from it because he absorbed so many of my punches. His head was like a wall and it was difficult to knock him down. I did everything. He was calm and strong. I am really relieved to have won," said Tso.
The win means the Hong Kong star retains his WBO Asia-Pacific junior bantamweight title, and increased his hopes of a possible world title fight at the end of the year.
Watch: Hong Kong's first ever professional boxer, the undefeated Rex Tso
It could have been a different story had Tso not survived the two knockdowns - the first of his career - after getting floored by Kokietgym's left hook and then getting dropped seconds later by a solid right hand. But somehow Tso got his second wind and won the bout on points.
Kokietgym had his arms raised at the end of the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds, but it was Tso who raised the loudest cheers as he hugged his team, which included the legendary Miguel Diaz - Hall of Fame trainer and cutman for Manny Pacquiao.
The last two weeks have been off-putting for Tso, who twice had to change his tactics after his first opponent broke his wrist in training and the other had his licence suspended after contracting hepatitis B.
Organisers signed Kokietgym, 22, just last week, meaning Tso had to switch from a southpaw back to orthodox tactics.
Tso's weigh-in on Friday also came close to ending in disaster. He came within a whisker of not making the weight, believing the bout would be fought at a catch weight of 117 pounds, instead of 115. He was given two hours to make the weight - and he did.
Meanwhile, Russian Evgeny Gradovich retained his IBF featherweight title against Armenian-born Belgian Alexander Miskirtchian and Nicolas Walters also retained his WBA world featherweight title against Vic Darchinyan.
Macau's Ng Kuok Kun scored a first-round knockout against Muhammad Imam of Indonesia and China's Yang Lianhui stopped Geisler Ap of Indonesia, also in the first round.