The Wonder Kid that Clobbered the Pocket Rocket
Boxer Rex Tso on his uphill fight to 18 straight wins.
Featherweight Rex “The Wonder Kid” Tso is Hong Kong’s first professional boxer, with a record of 18 fights—and 18 wins. He most recently defeated Australian Olympian Brad “Pocket Rocket” Hore for the WBC Asian Boxing Council super flyweight title.
The undefeated champion started boxing professionally at 24 and has won multiple Super Flyweight titles in the last four years. He tells Adrienne Chum about pulling on the gloves, the sacrifices he makes for training and his toughest match ever.
I grew up in Tuen Mun. I have three older brothers.
Boxing ran in the family. When I was little, around 5 or 6 years old, my father began teaching me about boxing.
I didn’t get into any fights at school. In fact, I wasn’t really a fan of boxing when I was young, because I was very lazy and exercise was hard work. I felt that if I had to train for two hours, that was too much.
Besides, in boxing you get hit by people, and I didn’t like that. I liked playing basketball and computer games instead.
But since boxing was a family exercise, and my dad and brothers did it, I did a bit too.
I was bad at school, so when I left I couldn’t find work. I did some manual labor, like goods transport, but I didn’t really care for it much. I didn’t really have a goal in life.
When I was 18 or 19 I joined Def Boxing as a trainer. It wasn’t until then that my interest in boxing grew, as I had more time to train.
My coach Jay wanted to host a professional boxing match: He put a lot of time into bringing boxing into Hong Kong. We had a boxer from Africa who would participate, but he also wanted a local to join, so he asked me to try.
That was a very special opportunity, so I said sure, why not?
But with the match looming, I got really nervous: I had been so lax before, so how could I handle a professional match?
Jay said he’d send me to the Philippines to train for a month before the match, to improve my technique. But if I wasn’t in good enough shape, the trainer could send me back on the first day. It scared me into getting in shape for that month.
I wasn’t even sure if I was ready for the training. But I saw the match getting closer and closer, so I did everything the coach told me to do.
When I got in the ring, everything I’d learned came easily. Since then, I’ve understood that if I put in the effort, I can improve.
That night there were more than 300 people watching, and when they all got up to celebrate my victory, the feeling was something I had never felt before. It was amazing. I loved it. And I began to love boxing.
For the first year and a half, money was difficult. The gym was trying to put some matches together, but not many people in Hong Kong really care about boxing, so we didn’t have that support.
We had to go to other countries for matches. We didn’t have an income, but we had to get our name and reputation out there and win some matches, or we’d never get anywhere.
Photo: Kirk Kenny / studiozag.com
The most difficult match I faced was my eighth, which was against a Kyrgyzstani for the WBC Asia Continental belt. This was my first battle for a belt, and my opponent was much more experienced than I was. The fight was 12 rounds, which was the most I had ever experienced.
Before I had only fought four-round matches. Most boxers gradually go from four to six to eight to 10 to 12 rounds, so it was a huge jump for me.
The first few rounds were really bad. I was controlled by my opponent the whole time, and every time I threw a punch, I gave him an opening, which he punished.
At the fifth or sixth round I thought: “He’s too experienced; there’s no way I can win like this.”
So I decided to use my strength and stamina to fight back. When he hit me with one punch, I’d hit him with three. After a while his face and both his eyes were swollen, and my right eye was swollen.
But at the end of the 10th round, his eyes were so swollen that they were just lines on his face—he couldn’t open them. The referee stopped the fight to protect his safety and I got the title.
Since becoming a professional I’ve learned how important discipline is. If you just exercise for health, resting one day to go out with friends is alright. But you can’t do that when you’re preparing for a match. Every day you skip is one more day your opponent gets to train.
I love eating and I want to eat everything! But I have to control my diet very strictly. After cutting weight [losing weight before a match] so many times, I know that even if I have a little time to eat a more relaxed diet, I can’t let myself go too much. The more you have to cut the more it sucks!
On the final days before a weigh-in, I can’t even drink water: When I’m thirsty, I can only gargle it.
I love rice too, and have to have it every day. If I don’t eat rice, I don’t feel full.
But I do miss ice cream. I love all the flavors!
Sometimes I stand in the doorway of snack shops and just look at the food.
Rex trains at Def Boxing with coach Jay Lau Chi-yuen. Learn to punch like a pro at Def Boxing, 124 Connaught Rd. Central, Sheung Wan, 2840-0162.