Sting in the tale: Hong Kong’s ‘Wonder Kid’ Rex Tso could fight for WBO world title

A series of events have opened the way for a possible world champion fight for the Hong Kong star after Naoya Inoue pummelled Kohei Kono in Tokyo on Friday night

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 5:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 9:17pm

Rex Tso Sing-yu’s hopes of getting into the ring with Kohei Kono evaporated before his eyes in Tokyo after the veteran was flattened by fellow Japanese and WBO super flyweight champion Naoya Inoue on Friday night – but the resulting cloud could have a silver lining.

Tso was at ringside in Tokyo, hoping former WBA champion Kono – coming off a world title loss to Panama’s Luis Concepcion four months earlier – would somehow make a comeback against the highly rated Inoue and lift the WBO title, but the 36-year-old “Tough Boy” suffered the first stoppage of his career in a devastating TKO defeat by the boxer nicknamed “Monster”.

As Tso and Kono had made a verbal agreement in mid 2016 that Tso would fight Kono (32-10-1) if he was world champion, Hong Kong’s “Wonder Kid” was hopeful of getting his first world title shot in his next scheduled fight on March 11 at Wan Chai’s Convention and Exhibition Centre.

However, Tso’s hopes were blown away after Inoue knocked Kono down twice in the sixth round before the referee called a halt to the fight after the second knockdown with Kono still flat on his back at Tokyo’s Ariake Coliseum.

One of the top-rated pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Inoue easily retained his WBO title, raising his unbeaten record to 12-0-0, with Kono now contemplating retirement after suffering his second straight defeat in a world title bout.

Watch: Naoya Inoue v Kohei Kono full fight 

Big step: Hong Kong hero Rex Tso battles overtime to earn his 20th, and toughest, pro victory against bruising Ryuto Maekawa

Not all was lost, however, for the Tso camp as they have learned that Inoue might vacate his title and move up to bantamweight, paving the way for a possible chance for Tso to fight for the WBO title.

Tso is the number one contender in the WBO ranking list and would fight number two ranked contender Mexico's Juan Hernandez under the given rules should Inoue vacate his title.

Tso’s coach and manager Jay Lau Chi-yuen admitted there was a chance of Tso fighting for the WBO title.

“There’s a rumour that Inoue will move up to bantamweight to fight [Filipino champion Marlon] Tapales. We might have a chance to fight for the vacant title,” said Lau.

“An announcement will be made soon. We just spoke with WBO vice president Leon Panoncillo and IBO chairman [John Daddono]. We don’t think Inoue will vacate his title so fast though,” he said.

Speculation is rife that Inoue would move up to bantamweight because he struggled to make weight against Kono with reports suggesting he looked gaunt at the weigh-in.

Japanese fighter Ryuto Maekawa lands in hospital with burst eardrum after pounding by Hong Kong ace Rex Tso

“Inoue’s manager Akihiko Honda said Inoue is still growing [physically] because he’s just 23,” said Lau.

Honda also manages WBC flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez, the Nicaraguan superstar (46-0-0) known as “El Chocolatito” who has moved up to super flyweight. An Inoue-Gonzalez fight would be one of the world’s most eagerly anticipated fights but it’s unlikely Honda will have his two stablemates fight against each other, which lends more weight to the notion that Inoue would move up to bantamweight.

“I don’t think Honda would want his two stars to fight against each other. There’s still a chance that Kono would fight again, depending on the purse and whether it’s attractive to him,” said Lau, adding speculation that Tso could still fight Kono.

Alternatively, the 29-year-old unbeaten Hong Kong star (20-0-0) could be lined up to fight against South Africa’s IBO world champion Gideon Buthelezi.

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The 30-year-old Buthelezi won his last fight earlier last month – a non-title fight – against fellow South African Doctor Ntsele to raise his record to 18-5-0 and he could also be on the list of Tso’s next possible opponent.

Whatever the case, the Tso camp will make an official announcement on January 22 with the date and venue confirmed.

The Tso camp has already announced that a record 8,000 seats – 3,000 more than Tso’s last fight against previously unbeaten Japanese Ryuto Maekawa in October, which Tso won on points – would be available at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.