Zou Shiming

Zou Shiming set to make Macau return in first world title defence

The newly crowned WBO champion is scheduled to fight in Cotai Arena for the first time in two years as top-class boxing returns to the former Portuguese enclave

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 January, 2017, 11:07pm

China’s world flyweight champion Zou Shiming is set to make his first title defence in a familiar venue as world-class boxing returns to Macau for the first time in almost two years.

Zou is expected to make his return to Venetian’s Cotai Arena on April 1 – the first time the Chinese two-time gold medallist will have fought in Macau since March 2015.

Macau last hosted boxing at the Cotai Arena in July 2015 with “Victory at the Venetian” that saw will Cesar “El Distinto” Cuenca of Argentina defeat China’s “Ik” Yang Lianhui for the vacant IBF junior welterweight world title

Zou (9-1, 2 KO’s) won the vacant WBO flyweight belt last year after dispatching Thailand’s Prasitsak Phaprom with a unanimous decision on November 5 on the undercard bout of the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas showdown at Thomas & Mack Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With the world title safely in the bag, Zou would be able to promote the sport on the mainland like never before. Zou has fought seven times in Macau, kicking off his professional career at Cotai Arena in April 2013 and all his fights in the former Portuguese enclave had been held in front of capacity or near capacity audiences.

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A top official from Sands China Ltd confirmed that talks were under way between Venetian, Sands China, promoters Top Rank and Chinese sports marketing firm Seca but warned negotiations were in the early stages.

“Nothing has been confirmed at this stage and we are currently still in discussions,” said David Baxley, vice president – regional entertainment – Sands China Ltd.

“We will continue to have talks in the United States with the relevant parties.”

Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum was more positive of a return of boxing to Macau, which has been hit by a plunge in casino revenues as President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign hit the city’s gaming industry hard. Casino revenue has made somewhat of a recovery from 2015 with the Sands China stock price holding steady.

“We’re planning on April 1st, we’re going back to Macao at the Venetian with Zou Shiming and an all star cast,” 85-year-old veteran boxing promoter Arum told recently.

“You have to understand, when Zou Shiming won the title here in Las Vegas [last November] and the fight was on in China on Sunday morning with [Manny] Pacquiao and [Jessie] Vargas, we did over 90 million homes watching that fight,” Arum said.

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Arum had told the Post last year that Macau was back on if Zou became world champion since his biggest Top Rank star, Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao, is undecided as whether he will continue fighting after making his comeback against Vargas last November.

Arum said Asia’s appetite for boxing has increased significantly over the years with the “biggest supporter being President Xi Jinping, who is a really big, big boxing fan, a huge boxing fan”.

The 35-year-old Zou, who is coached by Hall of Famer, Freddie Roach, is only the second Chinese professional world champion after WBC (World Boxing Council) minimum weight champion Xiong Chaozhong.

Organisers are searching for an opponent for Zou and is expected to be confirmed in the next two months.

However, the April extravaganza is unlikely to include Hong Kong’s “Wonder Kid” Rex Tso Sing-yu on the undercard bill. The 29-year-old unbeaten southpaw is scheduled to fight in Hong Kong on March 11 and would not have sufficient time to recuperate and fight again in three weeks.