Rex Tso still waiting for world title shot as he returns to ring against Hirofumi Mukai in March

The 29-year-old ‘Wonder Kid’ will challenge former world title challenger from Japan as he looks to extend his unbeaten record in a bout that will have three belts on the line

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 January, 2017, 2:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 10:30am

Hong Kong’s “Wonder Kid” Rex Tso Sing-yu will have to wait a bit longer to earn a world title fight after his latest opponent was announced on Sunday as the main event for “Clash of Champions 2”.

Japanese fighter Hirofumi Mukai will challenge the local hero on March 11 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in a 12-round contest, but there’s no world title yet for the 29-year-old unbeaten southpaw (20-0-0, 12 KOs) who must remain patient and stay the course if he’s going to finally earn his shot at fame.

Mukai (13-4-3, 3 KOs) is a former world title challenger and the new WBO Asia-Pacific champion but he’s unlikely to be tough as Tso’s previous opponent, the previously unbeaten Ryuto Maekawa, who the “Wonder Kid” battered in a one-sided, unanimous decision three months ago in October at the same venue.

The 31-year-old Mukai will be Tso’s tallest opponent to date at 1.71m and like Tso is also a southpaw. Three belts will also be on the line: Tso’s WBC Asia super flyweight title and WBO international junior bantamweight title (115 pounds) and Mukai’s WBO Asia-Pacific junior bantamweight title.

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

Organisers of “Clash of Champions 2” are hopeful Tso’s latest battle in the ring will attract a potential record-setting audience of 8,000 at Wan Chai’s Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Tso camp also believe Mukai will be a tough nut to crack and could give the Hong Kong star a good workout before he earns a possible world title shot later this year.

“Mukai has earned world title fights before. He’s an experienced fighter that could give Rex a few problems,” said Jay Lau Chi-yuen, Tso’s trainer and manager.

“He’s tall and he’s a southpaw just like Rex so it’s not going to be easy for Rex.”

Mukai met the press on Sunday and was convinced he was going to win the March showdown.

“I fight to win and I have a bit more experience than Rex. I’m going to fight hard and bring back all three belts back to Japan,” said Mukai.

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In November 2016, Mukai defeated Thailand’s Tanawat Phonnaku (who went the distance against then-WBA champion Kohei Kono in Tokyo last year) to claim Tso’s vacated WBO Asia-Pacific junior bantamweight title.

Mukai then immediately called out Tso, laying down a challenge for the WBO international junior bantamweight title captured by Tso at “Battle of Victors” on October 8th, 2016.

Osaka-based Mukai is no stranger to big title fights, having fought for the WBC world flyweight and super flyweight titles, as well as OBPF and Japanese national titles.

Sources said Tso had planned to fight Gideon Buthelezi for the South African’s IBO (International Boxing Organisation) world super flyweight title but negotiations broke down and the Tso camp went for Mukai instead.

The Wonder Kid’s world title plans have been thrown in disarray before. His plans to challenge Kono for the WBA world super flyweight title were thwarted after Kono lost his belt in a mandatory title defence bout against Luis Concepcion of Panama in August 2016. Kono subsequently suffered another defeat last month against Naoya “Monster” Inoue, when the 36-year-old veteran was knocked out by his fellow Japanese.

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As Tso is ranked the number one contender by the WBO, he was subsequently ordered to accept the challenge by Mukai for the WBO international title.

Tso’s camp is adamant that a world title fight will come sooner than later for the Wonder Kid, especially after achieving his new-found status as the WBO number one ranked contender.

The Hong Kong star recently had his contract with boxing promoters, Top Rank, extended for another year and CEO and founder Bob Arum will work closely with the Tso camp to set up a world title fight for him in 2017, especially if he remains unbeaten and retains his number one contender status.

Tso recently underwent two weeks of intensive training in the Philippines, where he sparred with WBO world bantamweight champion Marlon Tapales (29-2-0). The Hong Kong star might return to the Philippines to sharpen his skills or stay home and focus on his physical training and conditioning.

Tickets for the event are priced at HK$380, HK$580, HK$880, HK$1,280, and HK$1,880 and they will be available for sale at HK Ticketing ( starting on Tuesday, January 24th.