I might not return to the ring, admits China’s Zou Shiming after surprise WBO title defeat by Japan’s Sho Kimura
Two-time Olympic champion boxer says he might not fight again and is dreaming of becoming a coach to train the next generation of world champions after his sensational loss in Shanghai
Chinese superstar fighter Zou Shiming admitted he might not return to the ring and is dreaming of training the next generation of mainland world champions after his sensational defeat by Japan’s Sho Kimura in Shanghai.
Kimura handed Zou his second loss since the two-time Olympic champion turned to the professional ranks in 2013.
The 28-year-old Tokyo-based fighter upset all the odds to lift the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) world flyweight title with an 11th-round knockout victory on Friday night.
An emotional Zou said moments after the fight that he was going to “come back” in some shape or form, and then suggested in his post-match speech that his days in the ring were numbered.
In a long and rambling speech at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Centre, the 36-year-old Zou told the 9,000-strong crowd his fight against Kimura could have been his last.
“This might be my last fight. But I will stay in the boxing environment and continue this business in China,” he said as he tried to keep his emotions in check.
“I’m carrying the hopes of all of China. I need to do things. I was not just fighting in the ring. My big dream is to train a new generation of Chinese world champions,” said the Zunyi-born fighter, who promoted the fight himself after severing ties with American promoter Top Rank this year.
Zou also called on Chinese fans to support boxing.
“I am crying not because I have lost but because I helped promote boxing to millions of Chinese people. This is an achievement. In the past, Chinese boxers were easily defeated by the West but we are respected now. I shed blood and tears to get to this stage,” said the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion, whose record dropped to 9-2-0.
Zou was narrowly ahead on points against Kimura until he ran of gas, allowing the 28-year-old Japanese to storm back with a barrage of punches that sent the Chinese champion to the canvas.
Zou eventually got up to his feet before he grabbed the microphone to start his 20-minute plus speech.
“I must thank the audience here. You have supported me all the way through. China is a big country. I am sure I will come back. I’m the king forever,” Zou told the stunned audience.
The boxer they call “Fists of Gold” later said he chose Kimura as his opponent because he knew it was going to be a tough fight and Zou wanted to provide “more entertainment”.
“We chose to defend my belt instead of challenging the other belts. Kimura won the [WBO] Asia Pacific title last year. We knew he had a high KO strike rate and that it was going to be tough. I wanted to show people my ability instead of just moving around [my opponent],” said the Chinese flyweight.
Zou’s sport agent and marketing partner, Seca, refused to comment on his loss but it is understood the Chinese company is displeased that their biggest star faces an uncertain future after being warned not to promote the fight himself.
Zou incensed Seca and Top Rank by promoting the fight on his own. It is not known whether Zou’s contract with Kimura had a “rematch” clause, which would make it easier for him to make a comeback and have another crack at the world title.
A crowd of 9,000 plus attended Friday’s night fight with 7,000 tickets sold and 2,000 given away as complimentary tickets, according to Chinese media reports. Zou secured TV and internet rights and received financial backing from sponsors to help him cover the costs of his fight plus the undercard bill.
Meanwhile, Kimura, who improved his record to 15-1-2 with eight KOs, returned to a hero’s welcome as he landed in Tokyo on Saturday. Japanese fighters now hold three of the four belts in the flyweight division.
Kimura made good on his promise that he would take the world title home in honour of his late mother, who died when he was just 20 years old.
Kimura was the massive underdog in the fight against Zou as an unheralded fighter ranked seventh by the WBO.